Prepaid defers payments for 3 months, sales tax hike vote, online issues, AP testing with notes and more

Prepaid payments deferred: The Prepaid College Board has deferred payments into college accounts for three months because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those who have accounts for their children or grandchildren won’t have to pay in April, May and June, and will resume July 20. The three monthly deferred payments will be added at the end of the payment schedule. The agency also announced it was waiving its $50 application fee for new plans. “We hope that the deferred payments will provide some financial relief during this challenging time,” board chairman John D. Rood wrote in an email to account-holders. Tampa Bay Times. WKMG. WPTV. Florida Politics. Boca Raton News. Florida Prepaid.

Sales tax hike on move: A Jacksonville City Council committee has approved a Duval County School District proposal to ask voters in November to increase the sales tax by a half-cent for school replacements and repairs. The Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee voted 6-1 in a virtual meeting to pass along the request. The request now goes to the Rules Committee and the Finance Committee today, and if members of those panels approve it will be considered by the full council. The council turned down the request last year. Projections show the tax would raise about $1.2 billion over its 15-year life. Florida Politics.

Online learning updates: Add Hillsborough County school Superintendent Addison Davis to the growing list of educators who doubt schools will reopen until next fall. He also expects summer school to be conducted virtually. “It’s a safe bet,” he said in an appearance on Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s daily Facebook Live show on Monday. WUSF. More than 1 in 10 southwest Florida students did not log in at all in week 1 of the transition to online instruction, according to Lee County School District officials. Ninety-five percent of preschool and elementary school students were in contact with their teachers through virtual learning, email or by phone. But only 87 percent of middle school students made contact, and just 79 percent of high school students. The average daily absentee rate is about 7 percent. School officials said they wanted to show families “grace and compassion,” but this week teachers and other employees will be calling students. Fort Myers News-Press. Getting students to log in is also a problem for the Bay County School District. On the first day of distance learning, 90 percent of students logged in. By the end of the week that was down to 76 percent. To help, the district has created a special hotline for parents. Panama City News Herald. Parents of special needs students in Leon County say the transition to distance learning has been difficult. WCTV. Schools also struggled to connect with students in Volusia County. Technology has been a challenge, and some students have said they feel a sense of isolation. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Okaloosa County school officials said students are starting to adapt, accept and even appreciate their new normal. Northwest Florida Daily News.

AP testing: Students will take Advanced Placement exams May 11-22 from home on any device they have access to, and will be able to use their books and notes, the College Board recently announced. Company officials said the rules will not have an impact on the integrity of the tests. “Open book/open note exams are not easy,” they argue in a press release. “Answering AP Exam questions takes more than copying information from notes. Finding facts, formulas, or other information in your notes is only one step to answering an exam question—you have to apply the information in order to complete the task.” Exams are offered in about three-dozen subjects, and students need a score of 3, 4 or 5 to pass. Students who pass can get college credits. About 56 percent of Florida’s students took at least one AP exam in 2019. Florida Phoenix.

Graduation plans: Seminole County high schools will hold a free dance for seniors June 11 and graduation ceremonies June 12, if social distancing guidelines have been lifted. If the guidelines are still in place, the ceremonies will be pushed to mid-July, said Superintendent Walt Griffin. Other central Florida school districts have not announced their plans for end-of-the-year celebrations. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

More on the coronavirus: Another person “associated with” the Manatee County School District has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a district spokesman. No details about the case were announced. Publicly acknowledged cases have been reported with persons associated with Lakewood Ranch High School and Sugg Middle School. Bradenton Herald. The Putnam County School Board has its first virtual meeting today. Palatka Daily News. Hackers continue to disrupt virtual classes in Florida. Palm Beach Post. Teachers and other employees from Treadway Elementary School in Leesburg put together a 48-vehicle parade to visit homebound students Monday. Daily Commercial. School districts and other organizations continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed, and some are making changes in their deliveries. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Daily Commercial. WFOR. Florida Keys Weekly. Space Coast Daily. Lakeland Ledger. WTXL. WTVT.

Few rezoning concerns: Pasco County School Board members will hold a public hearing today about the district’s rezoning plan for elementary schools in the northwest part of the county. So far, there have been few public complaints about the plan. Tampa Bay Times.

Coaches fined, suspended: Four Manatee County high school football coaches have been suspended and fined for recruiting violations, the Florida High School Athletic Association announced on Monday. Manatee High head coach Yusuf Shakir and Palmetto High’s Dave Marino were given eight-game suspensions and fined $5,000. Lakewood Ranch High head coach Rashad West and Manatee High assistant Dennis Stallard received six-game suspensions and were fined $5,000. The three schools were also fined, and all have been placed on administrative probation until June 30, 2021. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Compensation for athletes: The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a college sports reform group, is recommending that college athletes be permitted to profit from the use of their “name, image and likeness” in endorsement deal, but they should not be allowed to use school logos or trademarks. The NCAA is still working on its own recommendations, which aren’t expected to be in place until 2021. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Teacher raises approved by the Legislature may soon have to be revised to help the state pay for a pandemic crippling the state’s economy and taxing our healthcare system. USA Today Network. By the end of this crisis, families and teachers will see firsthand that education can occur outside a traditional school classroom and that learning can take place using unique methods and mediums. John Legg, Florida Politics. Broward County teachers have had to fend for themselves during this crisis because of conflicting messages from top administrators. Sarah Leonardi, Sun Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Thirteen Florida high school students have been chosen as winners in the 25th annual Palm Beaches Student Showcase of Films, the largest student film competition in the state. Sun Sentinel. Two Lake Nona High School students compiled a four-minute video, “A Message from the Class of 2020,” with memories of more than 70 seniors. Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff