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Masks, student activism, teaching Juneteenth, reopening schools, budget, graduations and more

Masks in schools: Last Thursday, Hillsborough County school Superintendent Addison Davis said students probably would not be required to wear masks when schools reopen, though they would be encouraged to do so. At about the same time, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced that the use of masks would be required in the city in any indoor location. So how will that apparent conflict be resolved? Enter the lawyers. Board attorney Jim Porter said he has contacted the city attorney’s office to discuss options. Gradebook.

Students target racism: Florida students are getting more vocal in protesting what they consider racism in their districts and schools. In several districts, students have started petitions calling on their districts to address and remove racism by teaching students about bias and white supremacy, providing sensitivity training to teachers, and providing more instruction on topics ranging from history to the war on drugs and mass imprisonment. Gradebook. WJXT. WPLG. WJXT. Teaching students about race and racism is important, educators agree, but how to do so can be challenging. TCPalm. U.S. students talk about diversity, equity, racism and protesting in a “student takeover” of the Chalkbeat website today. Chalkbeat.

Curriculum missing Juneteenth: Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, is missing from the Florida Sunshine State Standards, which is the curriculum for public schools in the state. Educators said that needs to change. “I think we need to do more. The current events around us tell us there has to be a greater awareness of what the struggle has been,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. WTVJ.

Reopening schools: Citrus County students can opt for in-person or remote learning when schools reopen Aug. 10. Those who want to continue remote learning with the Citrus Virtual School must register by July 11. Students in classrooms won’t be required to wear masks, but will be encouraged to do so. They’ll be kept apart as much as possible and given frequent hand-washing breaks. Citrus County Chronicle. Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie said over the weekend that once schools reopen Aug. 19, students will spend 50 percent of their time learning in classrooms and 50 percent online. WSVN.

Budget lobbying: A letter signed by 35 advocacy groups is urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to protect “crucial programs and services, or else we will see existing racial and economic disparities exacerbated in Florida,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute, which was one of the groups signing the letter. Others range from the League of Women Voters of Florida and Habitat for Humanity of Florida to the Florida PTA and United Way of Florida. The letter specifically asks that the governor spare teacher raises, affordable housing and Florida’s environmental land acquisition program from being vetoed. DeSantis has said he will make major cuts to the proposed $93.2 billion budget to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The new budget year starts July 1. Florida Phoenix.

Graduation plans: Major League Baseball’s decision to close every spring training site in Florida for cleaning forced the Polk County School District to scramble to make new plans for six schools that have graduation ceremonies today. Gause Academy, Roosevelt Academy, Fresh Start’s Lakeland and Winter Haven campuses at 6 p.m. and the Ridge and Traviss Technical Centers were scheduled to have ceremonies at Joker Marchant Stadium, the spring home of the Detroit Tigers. The ceremonies have been moved to Lake Gibson High School. WFLA. Lakeland Ledger. Duval County high school graduation ceremonies will be held between July 15 and 27, the district has announced. Six backup dates have been chosen in case of bad weather. WJXT. Graduating seniors at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami-Dade County drove around the Homestead-Miami Speedway track to receive their diplomas, then took a victory lap. Miami Herald. WPLG. Dozens of Marion County high school seniors kneeled or sat in their chairs to protest discrimination, inequality and police brutality during the national anthem or Pledge of Allegiance at graduation ceremonies. Ocala Star-Banner.

More on the coronavirus: Ninety-four percent of the nation’s school superintendents said in a survey this month that they weren’t ready to announce if and when they’ll reopen schools to in-person instruction. The 74. Some U.S. school districts that are strapped for funds because of the pandemic are choosing education over police officers in schools. Education Week. Hillsborough County School Board member Tamara Shamburger has tested positive for the coronavirus. She said she’s relatively asymptomatic, but that the diagnosis has changed her perspective on reopening schools in August. “I am genuinely concerned about reopening, what it’s going to look like and how we are going to protect teachers and staff and students and families,” she said. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Mascotte Charter School will no longer be used as a food distribution site, the Lake County School District has announced. Free food distributions will still be made from 15 other schools. Daily Commercial. Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson has donated his monthly salary to help retire student meal debt at nine county schools. Englewood Sun. U.S. pro and college athletic teams are increasingly reporting that some of their players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Wall Street Journal. USA Today. Deadline. WUSF.

Rules against bullying: A conservative political group is pushing state education officials to penalize school districts that are failing to notify parents about a scholarship program that gives bullied students money to attend private schools. The Florida Citizen Alliance believes districts are disregarding the rules because they lose funding when a student leaves a school, and that “there needs to be some teeth” in the punishment. This past school year, 429 students used the Hope Scholarship, far short of the 7,000 that were projected to be eligible when the program started in 2018. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, administers the scholarship. redefinED.

Trump still after DACA: President Trump said he will continue his effort to end legal protections for the 650,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by the parents. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court said the administration improperly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but it said federal officials could modify their approach and resubmit it. Most of the so-called “Dreamers” are high school and college students, and about 32,000 live in Florida. Associated Press.

Career education: Florida’s plan to improve its career and technical education has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The plan envisions expanded apprenticeship training opportunities and career readiness for students and working adults, funding for teacher development, and career plans tailored to meet the needs of market demands and emerging fields. Florida Politics.

LGBTQ ruling doesn’t affect religious organizations: The U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week that protected LGBTQ workers from job discrimination may not affect teachers and others who work in private religious schools. Legal experts said there’s an exception for churches and other religious organizations that allows them to consider race, sex, age and other characteristics when hiring workers that other institutions cannot. The “ministerial exception” was instituted to protect religious groups from government interference. Florida laws do not protect LGBTQ employees and students at private religious schools, even if the schools get state scholarship money from the state. Step Up For Students helps administer several state scholarships. Orlando Sentinel.

Board member hacked: Broward County School Board member Ann Murray said a hacker posted a white privilege meme on her Facebook page Sunday.  The meme read, “When I was born, they must have ran out of white privilege because I had to work my ass off to get where I am.” Murray, 77, said, she swore “on my husband’s grave” that she didn’t make the post. It was deleted a few hours later, and Murray apologized. Sun Sentinel.

DeSantis signs bus bill: One of the 21 bills Gov. DeSantis signed into law on Saturday will increase the penalties for motorists who illegally drive around school buses. Drivers who don’t stop when school buses do will be fined $200 instead of $100, and drivers who pass buses on the side where children enter and exit will be fined $400 instead of $200. News Service of Florida.

School elections: Steve Lanier has announced that he will challenge Franklin County School District Superintendent Traci Yoder in the November election. Neither drew a primary opponent. Apalachicola Times.

Teachers put on leave: Five teachers at Pace High School in Santa Rosa County have been put on leave after one of them made racially charged posts about the Black Lives Matter movement on Facebook. Lisa Dillashaw, who wrote the posts, Scott Denny, Timothy Dillashaw, Stephanie Jernigan-Watson and Valerie Wright were all put on leave pending a school district investigation. Pensacola News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.

School burglarized: Two burglars into a Pasco County school last week and stole hundreds of dollars worth of supplies, including laptops and a projector. Deputies said the two spent several hours inside the World of Knowledge Montessori School in Holiday, and were recorded on surveillance videos. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: Dear Florida TaxWatch: Your suggestion to expand virtual learning in K-12 and colleges and universities to “reduce operating costs” is a lazy recommendation. You can do better than that. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. While the transition to online school has been difficult for many teachers, parents and students, it’s been virtually impossible for families of children with disabilities. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. What is the exact number of positive Covid-19 cases it will take for college football to be shut down? Karen Weaver, Forbes. American Federation of Teacher president Randi Weingarten said last week that schools in New York City had been fixed. But for whose benefit have they been fixed? Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Supplies for students will be collected at several locations in Lee County during a back-to-school drive June 25 through Aug. 5. WFTX.

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BY NextSteps staff