More school start times delayed, state okays two district plans, online choices, fall sports and more

Reopening plans: Florida school boards are considering and approving district reopening plans, which must be submitted to the Florida Department of Education by July 31 for approval. Here are the latest developments:

Orange County: The Florida Department of Education has approved the district’s reopening plan, which gives students three learning options: in-person, the Orange County Virtual School or the new LaunchED plan, in which students can learn at home but stay registered to their assigned school. Meanwhile, a school district survey shows that a significant majority of teachers and parents would prefer the start the school year with remote learning. More than 67 percent of teachers chose one of the three online options, while only 27.4 percent prefer in-person. About 69 percent of parents chose an online option, with 30 percent preferring face-to-face instruction. Schools reopen Aug. 21. WFTV. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Palm Beach County: Superintendent Donald Fennoy is recommending that the school board change the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31. The delay would give the district more time to train teachers on remote instruction methods, and for 82,000 laptops that have been ordered to arrive. The new school calendar would still give students a week off at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas and a week-long spring break in March. The last day of school would be June 18. The board is scheduled to vote on the change today. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV.

Duval County: District officials are recommending that the first day of school be delayed from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20 as part of the revised school reopening plan. The school board votes on the plan Thursday. In-person and virtual options for learning are offered. Elementary students who choose to return to school would be in classes five days a week. Middle school students would attend three or four days a week and high school students two days a week, with remote learning on other days. WJXT. Teachers, students and parents are lobbying the city of Jacksonville to provide more funding to the health department for testing, contact tracing and other assistance as part of their protest against the reopening of schools. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. Parents who are trying to register their children for online learning have been slowed by technical issues. The deadline is Friday. WJXT.

Pinellas County: Superintendent Michael Grego is asking the school board to delay the start of school from Aug. 12 to Aug. 24 to allow more time to plan for the new academic year. “The delay will give staff more time to create a schedule based on the learning options chosen by our families,” the district said in a statement. If the change is approved, the last day of schools would move from May 27 to June 9. The board will consider the request at its July 28 meeting. Gradebook. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Pasco County: School board members have approved a two-week delay in starting school. The first day will now be Aug. 24 instead of Aug. 10, but Superintendent Kurt Browning also cautioned, “I have to be brutally honest here, even with the delay there are no absolutely guarantees that the infection rate will improve in that time or that we will have a clear idea whether or not our community has turned the corner in terms of COVID-19.” Gradebook. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Brevard County: The first day of school was changed from Aug. 17 to Aug. 24 by the school board on Tuesday. But the board said the decision was contingent on an improvement in the coronavirus situation, and agreed to meet next week to reconsider. Board members also will discuss updating the reopening plan to require students and staff to wear face masks, instead of simply recommending they do so. Florida Today. WOFL. WKMG. WESH.

Volusia County: School board members approved a change in the first day of school from Aug. 17 to Aug. 31 in hopes that the pandemic begins to abate and to allow teachers more time to be trained for teaching remotely. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. WOFL.

St. Johns County: School board members voted Tuesday to push back the start of school by three weeks, to Aug. 31. Superintendent Tim Forson said the district needs the extra time to prepare for reopening. He also said 11,000 students have chosen school-based remote learning, while 33,000 will return to classrooms, 600 chose the St. Johns Virtual School and 2,700 opted for home-schooling. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV.

Escambia County: School board members have approved a delay for the start of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said the extra time is needed to train teachers on remote instruction, since the number of students who have opted for online learning is double what the district expected. The board will also consider a change in the school reopening plan to require students and staff to wear face masks or shields in hallways, cafeterias, libraries and on school buses. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Leon County: Have your child stay home this fall and learn remotely if you can, school board members are urging parents. “If you are able to sign up for digital … please consider it,” board member Alva Striplin said. “What we find ourselves dealing with is a matter that is beyond the control of local government,” said Darryl Jones. “Persons in high places have made a decision that makes it impossible for us to be flexible.” Superintendent Rocky Hanna said cameras will be placed in every classroom so that all classes offered in person will also be available online. Tallahassee Democrat. Leon County health officials have told school officials that they don’t have the authority to determine if schools should be reopened or kept shuttered. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa County: The first day of school has been delayed from Aug. 11 to Aug. 31, the school board decided on Tuesday. “The change to a later start date ensures that the district has sufficient time to enhance preparations and to provide training to all staff on the new protocols that will be in place this fall,” said Superintendent Marcus Chambers. The decision came on the same day that the county health department reported 103 children between the ages of 5 and 17 have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 68 of them have been since July 1. WEAR. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Santa Rosa County: Schools wouldn’t open until Aug. 24 under the latest proposal from Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick. If the school board approves the reopening plan Thursday, students can choose in-person or one of two virtual learning options, and students will be required to face masks at all times when physical distancing isn’t possible. WEAR. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay County: The Bay Haven Charter Academy has decided to delay the start of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24. “We wanted to make sure we had all of our safety measures for our facilities in place and fully implemented,” said CEO Larry Bolinger. Panama City News Herald.

Martin County: If the teachers union approves the district’s proposal, the first day of school will be changed from Aug. 11 to Aug. 25. A decision from the union is due by noon Tuesday, and the school board will then take a final vote. Superintendent Laurie Gaylord said the proposed delay was intended to give teachers and parents more time to prepare for the new school year. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC. Teachers, parents and students protest against the reopening of schools. TCPalm.

Charlotte County: The district’s first day of school has been pushed back to Aug. 31 to allow staff and families more time to prepare. School board members also approved a requirement that face masks be worn at all times in classrooms, school buildings and buses. WINK. WFTX.

Citrus County: About 2,500 of the district’s students have signed up for the district’s online learning program when schools reopen Aug. 10. That’s about 15 percent of the district’s students, and nearly four times more than district officials anticipated. Citrus County Chronicle. The school board meets today to decide when schools will start and whether students will be required to wear masks. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler County: School board members indicated they would approve a district proposal to delay the start of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24. The official vote is set for July 28. The district’s reopening plan gives students the options of in-person learning, virtual instruction through the iFlagler program, or a remote model that allows them to attend their regular classes. About 40 percent of the district’s 13,000 students have chosen virtual learning. Flagler Live. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sumter County: The district’s reopening plan gives students three learning options: in-person, virtually following their classes on their regular schedule, or learning remotely at their own pace. Face masks for students will be encouraged but not required. The first day of school is Aug. 17. WKMG.

Jackson County: School board members have approved a delay in the start of schools from Aug. 10 to 24. The board will meet again Tuesday to decide if students will be required to wear masks on buses and in hallways between classes. WCTV. WMBB.

Wakulla County: Schools will reopen Aug. 13, with students subject to daily temperature checks and masks required on school buses. Teachers won’t have to wear masks in classrooms, but will in hallways and when they’re in close contact, said Superintendent Robert Pearce. Teachers can choose to teach three to five students remotely in addition to their regular classroom duties for extra pay. WFSU.

Columbia County: The school board approved a proposal on Tuesday to push the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 13. Masks will be encouraged for students, who will have the choice on being in classrooms or learning remotely. WJXT.

Gulf County: The Florida Department of Education has approved the district’s school reopening plan, which gives students the options of in-person or virtual learning. Schools reopen Aug. 10. Florida Department of Education.

More on the coronavirus: A male student-athlete at Matanzas High School in Flagler County has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to district officials. Florida Department of Health officials said they’re conducting contact tracing to see who else might have been exposed. Flagler Live. Every student at the private Academy Prep middle school in St. Petersburg has been given a new Chromebook, which they’ll need for the first semester since learning will be online only. Tampa Bay Times.

Fall sports delays: More than a handful of Florida school districts said they will delay the start of fall sports practices and workouts, even though the FHSAA decided Monday to allow practices to start July 27. Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Polk, Manatee and Leon school districts announced  the delays Tuesday. Hillsborough officials said the delay will be two weeks, until Aug. 10, and Osceola won’t start before that date. Seminole said Aug. 31 will be the first day for practice, while Broward, Orange, Polk, Manatee and Leon officials did not set dates when practices and workouts would begin. Sun Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFLA. WFTS. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. WTXL. WCTV. Bradenton Herald. WTSP. Lakeland Ledger.

Federal aid proposal: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing that the next round of coronavirus aid include between $70 billion and $105 billion to help schools, though the Trump administration reportedly wants to tie the aid to a requirement that schools be reopened. The total of the Republican aid package is about $1 trillion, while Democrats are pushing for more than $3 trillion, with $100 billion of that going to schools. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects a package to be approved by the end of this month, though McConnell said the bill wouldn’t be ready until early August. Associated Press. New York Times. Washington Post. Huffington Post. NPR.

School board elections: A Sarasota County School Board candidate was partially responsible for a teacher not being disciplined after several verbal exchanges and a physical confrontation with students, according to a district investigation. Karen Rose, who’s running for the District 2 seat, was the district’s executive director of middle schools. She said she did nothing wrong and called the report a “political hit job.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The three candidates for the District 5 seat on the Orange County School Board, and one of the two candidates for the District 6 seat, talk about their priorities, the pandemic and issues facing the district. Orlando Sentinel. Candidates for the Broward County School Board talked about their priorities, school safety, budgets and more during a virtual candidates forum this week. WLRN.

Education podcasts: Kelly Smith, the founder and CEO of the Arizona-based organization Prenda, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the micro-schools movement, Prenda’s learning model and expansion plans and more. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: Schools and families will get better at remote learning because this pandemic is forcing us to do so. That is the necessity. The opportunity, however, is to capitalize on what we learn from this disruption and provide students extended learning time outside of the traditional school year. Nick Sheltrown, redefinED. The reopening of schools, just like any attempt to return to normalcy during this pandemic, will be an experiment parents, children, teachers and staff will endure. Florida Today. The COVID-19 pandemic calls for a large-scale communal response. Just like mask ordinances and stay-at-home orders, when it comes to school reopening, we will not “individual-choice” ourselves out of this. Marie-Claire Leman, Tallahassee Democrat. School systems need redesign now more than ever. We must find ways to reach, teach and provide equitable access and opportunity to each and every student. Catherine G. Atri, Gainesville Sun. When dealing with the lives of children, an abundance of caution must be taken. An all-virtual start of school until the numbers decline in all categories would provide that caution for all involved. Nancy Velardi, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff