Caution issued about reopening schools too soon, online learning lessons, teacher tests and more

Reopening schools: A family doctor issued a cautionary note Thursday to those planning on reopening K-12 schools next fall. “If schools reopen prematurely, schools are going to become the (place for) super-spreading events, which means we will soon be reading about clusters of infections and deaths that each child has caused,” Dr. Suzanne Minor said at a virtual conference called the Committee on Reopening Our Neighborhood Schools, sponsored by the Florida Education Association. The largest teachers union in the state decided to hold three meetings after it asked the Florida Department of Education to listen to health experts about reopening schools, but got no response. The next two are May 26 and 29, and the group will report its findings to the DOE and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Phoenix. Capitol News Service. WJXT. CDC guidelines for reopening schools. The DOE has yet to release its recommendations. Vox. WKMG. WEAR. Orange County school officials release drawings showing how classrooms could be set up next fall to comply with social distancing guidelines. Elementary classrooms would be reduced from 18 to 11 students, middle schools’ from 22 to 12 and high schools’ from 25 to 11. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins has also announced a hiring freeze. WKMG. WFTV. The Putnam County School District has appointed a task force of 20 residents to prepare recommendations for safely reopening schools next fall. Palatka Daily News. Florida’s universities also are trying to address questions about how to safely reopen campuses. Florida Politics. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat.

Online learning lessons: Online learning has been difficult, said parents and south Florida educators responding to a Broward County School District survey, but schools and students are getting better at it. That’s just one of the lessons learned from the switch to remote education. Students also are able to learn at their own pace, are more in charge of their own time management and are getting better at figuring things out without the help of adults. But Superintendent Robert Runcie said that the survey also indicated a need for more teacher interaction with students beyond handing out online assignments. Sun Sentinel. WFOR.

Certification tests: The state’s abrupt announcement this week that it was ending a program to teacher certification tests two months early because it had reached its goal of helping 50,000 teachers has drawn a torrent of criticism from those it was intended to help. “We got no notification or heads up from the DOE (Department of Education) that they were going to cut this off,” said Florida Education Association president Fed Ingram, who pointed out that the state never publicly announced any caps or quotas in the program. “We had no way of knowing how many people would sign up,” said DOE spokeswoman Taryn Fenske. “We budgeted for 100,000 (tests). We were thrilled with the response.” Tampa Bay Times.

More on the coronavirus: Guidelines released this week by the National Federation of State High Schools Association would force significant changes to high school sports in Florida if state officials adopt them. Orlando Sentinel. The Lee County School District is paying between $10 and $400 to have celebrities record video messages congratulating graduating seniors. WBBH. The Volusia County School District will conduct summer school online, officials have announced. Free breakfasts and lunches will continue to be offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at designated schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Gadsden County School District will distribute meals for pickup at six schools and 14 other areas in the county, starting June 8. WCTV. Virtual summer schools will also be held in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties. TCPalm. Five Tampa Bay area students, ranging from kindergarten to college, and five graduating seniors from the La Progresiva Presbyterian school in Miami, reflect on the ways the coronavirus pandemic affected their lives and their school year. Tampa Bay Times. redefinED. Up to 2,200 students from 32 Hillsborough County high schools could get their prom after all. A nonprofit named Tiana’s Tea is planning “Operation: Take Back Prom 2020” on June 27 at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent searches: With a month before the application window closes, the job of Escambia County school superintendent has attracted six candidates. None of the candidates is local, but three have worked or lived in Florida. Finalists will be interviewed in August, and a selection is expected in September. Malcolm Thomas, the current superintendent, retires in November. In 2018, Escambia voters decided to switch to an appointed superintendent. Pensacola News Journal. Leslie Brown, the chief portfolio services officer for Broward County School District, has been chosen as one of two finalists for the job of superintendent of the East Baton Rouge, La., School District. In-person interviews could be held as early as next week. The Advocate. WAFB.

Schools get names: Two new elementary schools in the Golden Gate area of Collier County have been given names of prominent members of the community. The school board approved naming one of the schools Herbert Cambridge Elementary School after Herb Cambridge, one of the first African-American teachers in Collier County and president of the Collier NAACP for nearly a decade. He died in 2016. The other will be named in honor of Naples philanthropist Lavern Norris Gaynor, 96, who has worked with the county’s education foundation and other charities. Both schools are for K-5 students, and are expected to open this fall. Naples Daily News. A K-5 school being built in Panama City Beach will be named the A. Gary Walsingham Academy. Walsingham is a businessman and philanthropist. Amy Harvey, the principal at Northside Elementary, has been named the Walsingham Academy principal. Panama City News Herald. WJHG.

Bus driver honored: A Charlotte County school bus driver has been honored by the U.S. Department of Justice with the Missing Children’s Citizen Award for helping find a 15-year-old girl with special needs who was reported missing when she didn’t board the bus at her foster home. Driver JoAnn Donovan provided critical information that led to the discovery of the girl, who had been taken by her noncustodial birth mother. Charlotte Sun.

Personnel moves: Doug Lee, who has been the executive director of operations for the Bay County School District the past two years, has been named athletic director at Mosley High School. Panama City News Herald. WMBB.

Ex-coach allowed to resign: The former head football coach at Matanzas High School in Flagler County who was due to be fired for using excessive force while disciplining an 8-year-old special education student will instead be allowed to resign. Robert Ripley, who also taught at Wadsworth Elementary School, will leave his job May 29. He’s been on paid administrative leave since the incident Feb. 19. Flagler Live.

Teacher under investigation: A Duval County math teacher is under investigation by the district for his transphobic, xenophobic and racist public social media posts and his refusal to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns. The district’s Office of Equity and Inclusion and Professional Standards will look into the online posts of Thomas Caggiano, who teaches at Sandalwood High School. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: A Brevard County School District task force made up of academic and operational district leaders, as well as medical professionals, has been working on four key aspects of the new school year: safety, structure, supports and sensitivity. Superintendent Mark Mullins, Florida Today. To my daughter and the Class of 2020: Turn the loss of your final days in high school into an experience and memory only you and the Class of 2020 can own. Nick Pugliese, Palm Beach Post. Education experts think schools could reacclimate their students by adopting a customer-service approach to education, adjusting their thinking about interpreting diagnostic testing of students, and putting more of an emphasis on social and emotional learning. Naaz Modan, Education Dive.

Student enrichment: Six Florida seniors in high school are among 161 across the United States who have been chosen as U.S. Presidential Scholars by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. They are: Sage Croft, Windermere High in Orange County; Alexander Grayson Dyer, Newsome High, Hillsborough; Helena Jiang, Buchholz High, Alachua; Mia Sarah Palomba, Alexander W Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Palm Beach; Lauren Philip, Creekside High School, St. Johns; and Mallorie Sievert, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Duval. U.S. Department of Education.

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BY NextSteps staff