Task force assumes schools to reopen by fall, pandemic impact, graduations, pre-K quality and more

Schools and the task force: The governor’s task force working on ways to reopen Florida for business is proceeding on the assumption that schools will be open by the fall, if not this summer. “Our main focus is to get schools open,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said at Wednesday’s meeting of the Re-Open Florida Task Force. “We know that by opening schools it will have a tremendous emotional impact, a tremendous physical impact, economic impact on our citizens and our businesses. And so that is going to be our focus: how do we get schools open, how do we keep them open, and what does all that entail?” Corcoran said that even with schools open in August, some students are going to have to continue with online learning because of health risks to themselves or family members. And Mimi Jankovits, the executive director of Teach Florida, an advocacy group for Florida Jewish day schools, warned that private schools could see a drop in enrollment. “The private schools, particularly the scholarship schools, are going to be facing some unprecedented crises,” she said. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Palm Beach Post. WFSU. Technical problems caused one of the three task force working groups to delay its meeting Wednesday, and Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested the problem might have been caused intentionally. Florida Politics. A new poll shows that 72 percent of Floridians don’t want social-distancing guidelines lifted by the end of the month, and 76 percent think the economy should be reopened only after public health officials say it’s safe to do so. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Measuring the impact: If the recession of a decade ago is any guide, the coronavirus pandemic will damage schools in significant and long-lasting ways. Among them: significant cuts in spending for years with low-income students most affected, job losses, lower student achievement, a dropoff in teacher performance and satisfaction, and an increase in enrollment of students into public schools from private schools they can no longer afford. But that experience might also serve as a guide to help education officials and politicians know what to expect, and possibly limit the harm to students. Chalkbeat. The 74. The learning loss from the pandemic could put some students as much as a year behind schedule, according to research by the Northwest Evaluation Association. T.H.E Journal.

Second time around: High school yearbooks are a major undertaking during a normal school year. For students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, 2020 is the second time in three years that they’re producing the chronicle of a school year in circumstances that are nowhere close to normal. In 2018, students worked through the grief of losing 17 classmates and teachers to a gunman. This year some of those same students are grieving over the loss of the end of their senior year. “Having done one under unthinkable circumstances before, I hate to say that we’re kind of you know, used to it — but for the seniors on staff — we are,” said adviser Sarah Lerner, who also teaches senior English and an introduction to journalism class. WLRN. Students in the Panhandle also have a sense of unwelcome deja vu. In 2018, Hurricane Michael devastated the area, causing damage that schools are still trying to recover from. Now the pandemic has leveled another shot. “The hurricane prepared us for crazy situations, so I think that if people in Bay County are not flexible by now, they never will be,” said Superintendent Bill Husfelt. “We’ve endured a lot during the last year and a half and we are going to get through this again.” News Service of Florida.

Graduation plans: Tentative dates are set for virtual graduation ceremonies for all 32 Palm Beach County School District high schools, officials announced on Wednesday. Three will be held on Thursday, May 26, and they’ll continue almost nightly until the last two on Friday, June 5. School board members said the online ceremonies do not preclude other ceremonies if guidelines against large gatherings are loosened sometime this summer. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. Graduating seniors at Miami-Dade County School District high schools will get two ceremonies, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced after consulting with senior class leaders. Virtual ceremonies will be held May 26-June 3, and more traditional ceremonies will be scheduled when it’s safe to have larger gatherings. Miami Herald. WSVN. Virtual graduation ceremonies will be held from June 15 to 28 for Broward County high schools, and streamed live. Caps and gowns will be issued for students to wear if they choose. “We know photos of you in your cap and gown are important,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie in a video message to students. “So all graduation regalia will be distributed to seniors in May to enable you to take graduation pictures with your family.” Sun Sentinel. WLRN. WPLG. Sarasota County school officials are planning traditional graduation ceremonies between July 16 and 26, if it’s safe to do so, and also wants to stage school dances for seniors in that time window. WWSB. Seniors at all but one Bay County high schools will get their traditional graduation ceremonies this summer in accordance with CDC guidelines, district officials have announced. And all final exams have been canceled. WMBB.

More on the coronavirus: Miami-Dade County school officials said virtual attendance has been significantly lower in the first two weeks of online learning at schools that have mostly lower-income students. At 29 schools where 92 percent of the students are considered economically disadvantaged, average online attendance rates are below 80 percent. WLRN. Not all families or all districts have enough laptops to go around to ensure that students are taking part in online learning. Florida Phoenix. A day after Pasco County school officials postponed graduations until August, they canceled proms and other senior events. Gradebook. Questions and answers about the impact of the pandemic on Brevard County students. Florida Today. Girls Inc. of Pinellas is offering girls a place to attend school online and study while their parents are at work. Tampa Bay Times. Teachers and students have made and donated more than 1,500 masks to health-care workers through the Miami Mask Project. Miami Herald. The Bay County School District raised $25,000 for billboards, yard signs and newspaper inserts to honor graduating seniors. News Service of Florida. Some Leon County students will get laptops to use for online learning thanks to a $15,000 donation by Envision Credit Union. Tallahassee Democrat. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Northwest Florida Daily News. Gradebook. Flagler Live. Clay Today. WFLA. Palm Beach Post.

State’s pre-K quality panned: Florida is trailing other states in a comparison of early education spending and standards, according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research, and that gap could grow because of the coronavirus pandemic. The state is just one five that enrolls at least 70 percent of 4-year-olds in pre-K, but ranks 42nd in spending per student and met only two of 10 minimum quality standards benchmarks. “Florida’s pre-K quality is concerning,” said Steven Barnett, the senior co-director and founder of the National Institute for Early Education Research. “Without adequate funding or standards, children aren’t receiving the high-quality preschool education they deserve and need.” He also said the economic crisis threatens to cause long-term damage to pre-K programs. Politico Florida. Education Dive.

Court rules against charters: An appeals court has ruled that the Palm Beach County School District does not have to share revenue from a 2018 property-tax referendum with charter schools. The ballot language specifically said the money would be “dedicated for operational needs of non-charter district schools,” and two of the three judges agreed to uphold that intent. “No language in (that part of the law), as it existed in 2018, requires that funds generated by the referendum be distributed to charter schools,” wrote Judge Robert Gross. The law has since been changed to require districts to share those funds with charters, but it was not retroactive to previous tax hike votes. Two charter schools and two parents filed the suit. News Service of Florida.

Impact fee increase: Sarasota County School Board members want to study the possibility of increasing impact fees. Fees were last raised in 2016, and board member Jane Goodwin said, “I don’t think they are high enough.” For a new single-family home, the fee is $2,032. It’s $516 for multi-family homes and $188 for mobile homes. The fees are projected to collect about $4.2 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The proposal will be considered at the board’s next meeting. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Construction of schools delayed: The coronavirus pandemic has slowed construction of elementary schools in Palm Bay and Stuart scheduled to open in the fall, and Martin County school officials said they won’t be be ready at least until the 2021-2022 school year. “But it could be later,” said facilities and planning director Mark Sechrist. How the district pays for the construction is also now uncertain. “I think we need to have a discussion about what this is going to look like moving forward with the potential of our sales tax decreasing significantly because,” said board chair Marsha Powers. TCPalm.

No policy change: The Flagler County School Board voted 4-1 to leave the district’s anti-discrimination policy as it is instead of adding gender identity. The policy specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability, ethnicity, nationality, political beliefs or genetics. LGBTQ-rights activists wanted gender identity added to protect an extra layer of protection for transgender students. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Education podcasts: State Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, and Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill talk about how public and private schools have innovated to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, how education might change after the outbreak is gone, and Florida’s place in the education choice world. redefinED.

Notable deaths: Lorenzo Phillips, who was a teacher and administrator for nearly 40 years at several central Florida schools, has died at the age of 77 of complications related to multiple myeloma. He retired in 2006 as principal of Jones High School in Orlando, and finished his career by teaching for nine years at an alternative school in Seminole County. Orlando Sentinel.

Personnel moves: Eight new principals and assistant principals have been appointed to Nassau County schools, the district has announced. The appointments begin when schools resume in the fall. Nassau County Record.

Student enrichment: Craig McFarland, a senior at Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, has achieved the rare honor of being accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. McFarland, who has a 4.98 grade point average and never got a B in high school, hasn’t decided which school he’ll attend. Associated Press. One Florida district and one school have been named Green Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education for “their commitment to healthy, safe, and sustainable learning environments.” The Martin County School District and Highland Elementary School in Lake Worth were among the 39 schools, 11 districts and five colleges or universities chosen. U.S. Department of Education.

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BY NextSteps staff