Task force sought for returning to schools, teacher certification, civics test, district budgets and more

Task force urged for reopening schools: Florida’s Board of Education is asking Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to create a task force to consider the issues that need to be resolved before schools can reopen. Among them: how to safely welcome students back into school classrooms, whether a teaching system that mixes in-person and online education is needed, how to mitigate the expected widening of the achievement gap during online learning, class sizes and virus testing procedures. “We have a new normal here, and that new normal will also require this task force to prepare for a very likely event that there is going to be a spike again in the fall,” said board member Michael Olenick. Corcoran did not commit to creating such a group, but did announce other decisions that could have an impact on reopening. Teacher certifications that were set to expire June 30 are being extended through December, and the state requirement for teacher evaluations has been suspended. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Gradebook. WFSU. redefinED. WKMG. WTXL. Students who can post a score of 60 on a 100-item multiple choice civics test made up of questions from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test and the Florida Civic Literacy Test will have met the civic literacy standards required for community college graduation, the BOE has decided. Some critics said the test is not a “serious college-level measurement of civic literacy.” Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida. President Trump said Dr. Anthony Fauci’s caution against reopening schools too soon was “not an acceptable answer.” CNN. Some school officials around the United States suggest that evening or Saturday classes should be considered to make up class time lost to the virus. Associated Press

District budget cuts: Leon County school officials said they are preparing cutbacks of 10 percent, 15 percent and 20 percent in the budget in anticipation of lower revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. “The problem is, we have no information from the state right now,” the district’s chief financial officer, Kim Banks, told school board members. “And we have no idea how bad it is.” Summer camps have already been eliminated, and Superintendent Rocky Hanna said he expects to reduce the number of teachers and school programs. “We are going to have some tough decisions to make over the course of the next several weeks and the months to come,” he said. Tallahassee Democrat. Many districts across the country have frozen teacher hiring in the face of budget uncertainty caused by the outbreak and subsequent shutdown. WTSP. The 74.

Summer school: Summer school in Hillsborough County will be conducted online, Superintendent Addison Davis has announced. Students who are behind their peers will be invited to participate. Even as he acknowledged that online learning is often less effective than in-person instruction, Davis said, “Summer learning loss is real. It’s real and something that has to be dealt with.” Gradebook. Pasco County will hold summer school through online learning, but is reopening child-care at about 20 schools in mid-June. Tampa Bay Times. Lee County’s summer school program, which runs from June 15 through July 16, will be held online, district officials have announced. WZVN. Citrus County school officials are preparing for summer school classes, and expect to announce by May 18 how they’ll be conducted. One of the options is an online-only curriculum, which will also be prepared for use in the fall if necessary, said Superintendent Sandra Himmel. Citrus County Chronicle.

Graduation plans: Commencement ceremonies for graduating Gulf County high school seniors will be held as scheduled next week at the school football stadiums. Port St. Joe seniors will graduate May 21 at Shark Field, and Wewahitchka seniors May 22 at Gator Field. Port St. Joe Star.

More on the coronavirus: A Monroe County school employee has tested positive the coronavirus, prompting the shutdown of the Sugarloaf School for a deep cleaning. Miami Herald. Central Florida school districts have set dates for students who aren’t attending summer school to return the laptops they were issued when online learning began two months ago. WKMG. The Seminole County School District has been distributing 60,000 meals a week. WKMG. The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way educators are approaching career education, just as that educational option was enjoying an surge in attention from school districts and interest from students. Education Week.

Vaping lawsuit: The Orange County School Board has decided to join several other Florida districts in suing the e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs. Board members said that vaping is a health hazard for students that’s also creating discipline problems and other issues that the district is having to devote resources to combat. Board chair Teresa Jacobs called vaping “outrageous” and “despicable,” and said she wanted to end the company’s “predatory practice on our students.” Orlando Sentinel.

Principals honored: Three principals have been named as finalists for the 2020 Florida principal of the year award given by the Department of Education. Chosen were Deniece Moss of West Bay Elementary in Bay County, Alexis Tibbetts of South Walton High in Walton County, and Sarajean McDaniel of Moseley Elementary in Putnam County. WMBB.

Welding program approved: Rutherford High School will be home to a welding program, after the Bay County School Board gave the go-ahead this week. An empty lot next to the school’s construction academy will be used for the welding lab, which is expected to be ready for students in six months to a year. WMBB.

Education podcasts: Broward County school Superintendent Robert Runcie talks about what the district’s schools might look like in the fall, and the challenges of reopening. WLRN. Ashley Berner, the deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about content-based curriculum, how it can improve educational equity, and the benefits of building knowledge content instead of simply reinforcing skills. Step Up for Students hosts this blog. redefinED.

Personnel moves: Tim Bargeron, who had supervised the business and operations at a school district in Galveston, Texas, is the new associate superintendent for finance for the Manatee County School District. He starts May 26 at an annual salary of $148,744. Bradenton Herald.

School board elections: Former county commissioner Carl Fox has announced that he is running for the District 3 seat on the Gulf County School Board. He’s challenging incumbent Cindy Belin. Port St. Joe Star.

Ex-teacher arrested: A former Pasco County teacher who was arrested and charged with video voyeurism in 2018 and is awaiting trial has been arrested again and charged with more counts after new videos have been discovered. Thomas Kovack, now 41, who was a teacher at Fivay High School, was first arrested for using a cell phone to video-record a female student changing clothes in a closet. This time he’s accused by Pinellas County deputies of making videos of girls using a bathroom in his Palm Harbor home. WFLA. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Keeping social distance between students so they could return to schools probably means many putting fewer students in a classroom. That could work if high school students continue learning online until the virus is no longer a threat while the empty high school classrooms are used for older K-8 students. Greg Richmond and Peter Cunningham, The 74.

Student enrichment: One hundred and fifty-two high-achieving Leon County high school seniors were honored at the 15th Annual Best & Brightest awards ceremony. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.

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BY NextSteps staff