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Reopening details, new school start dates, Lake asks for waiver from order, teachers’ choice and more

Reopening plans: Florida school boards are considering details of district reopening plans, which must be submitted to the Florida Department of Education by Friday for approval. Here are the latest developments, as well as other district news:

Broward: Schools are scheduled to reopen Aug. 19 with online-learning only, and Superintendent Robert Runcie said teachers will be allowed to choose whether to work from home or their classrooms. “We will offer morning and evening sessions at the elementary level to accommodate working parents,” Runcie said, and middle and high school students will have access to academic support in core subjects after school. Still to be decided: how to handle food service, and how to transport students with special needs and food service. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: A hiring freeze has been imposed by Superintendent Addison Davis in an effort to gradually cut the payroll. Earlier this month the school board was surprised to hear that $50 million from reserves was used to pay bills. Chief financial officer Gretchen Saunders attributed it to less money coming from the state, more expenses related to the coronavirus crisis, and raises after the district hired 500 new employees. Davis said the only hires that will be approved are ones to meet state class size limits, improve underperforming schools or to support a school-based program. Gradebook.

Orange: The school district’s decision late Monday to switch from a start date of Aug. 21 to Aug. 10, with online learning only until students return to classrooms Aug. 21, has drawn criticism from parents who will have to rework their vacations and schedules for themselves and their children on short notice. “They took a vote on it. Aug. 21. Now all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we’re going back to the 10th?” asked Jaime Greenspan-Cooke, who has two children in elementary school. “No other county seems to have the back and forth that our county is having.” District officials said students who can’t start school Aug. 10 will not be considered absent. Orlando Sentinel. Spectrum News 13. WKMG.

Duval: School board chair Warren Jones said he considered proposing to have the district start the school year with nine weeks of online-only learning, but has abandoned the idea because it’s not feasible. He said there were “so many moving parts,” and that students would not have immediate access to the technology they needed for remote learning. WJXT. WTLV.

Polk: All district students, grades K-12, will be required to wear masks when schools reopen Aug. 24, the school board tentatively decided on Tuesday. The new rule will be added to the student dress code once the board officially approves it. Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd suggested that the official language in the code include “grace and mercy” for kindergarten and 1st-grade students. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA. The district also released its plan to keep school buses safe for students, drivers and attendants. Students will wear masks and have their temperatures checked while boarding, and buses will be wiped down between runs and deep-cleaned at the end of the day. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Pinellas: School board members have unanimously approved a two-week delay in the first day of school until Aug. 24. The last day will be June 9. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. About 60 percent of the 60,000 students whose parents chose a learning method are sticking with virtual learning while 40 percent decided their kids will return to classrooms, the district announced Tuesday. Parents of another 40,000 students have not made a choice. The deadline was at 5 p.m. Monday. Students of parents who can’t be reached will be assigned to in-person learning. Tampa Bay Times.

Pasco: Students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks in county schools and other district buildings, the school board decided Tuesday night. Students who don’t follow the rule will be counseled, and if they continue to refuse to wear a mask they could be reassigned to a virtual learning program. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Nearly 300 recent Bayside High School graduates and their guests have been asked to quarantine at home for 14 days after it was discovered that a graduation guest has the coronavirus. Each graduate had two tickets for guests, and 30 school employees also attended. Florida Today. WOFL. WKMG.

Volusia: When schools reopen Aug. 31, students, staff and visitors will be required to wear face masks on school campuses when social distancing cannot be maintained. WKMG.

Manatee: School board members voted Tuesday to spend up to $350,000 to buy face shields and clear desk partitions for classrooms when schools reopen Aug. 17. Face masks will be the primary layer of protection in school buildings and buses, and face shields would be used in situations where extra protection is warranted. Bradenton Herald. The district’s reopening plan has been approved by the state, according to district spokesman Mike Barber. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Collier: For the second time, the school board has voted to delay the first day of school. Originally scheduled to begin Aug. 12, the school start was pushed to Aug. 19, and now to Aug. 31. The last day of school will be June 11. Naples Daily News. WINK. WBBH. The board also tentatively approved a budget of $1.2 billion, an increase of about $40 million over last year’s. A final vote will be taken in September. Naples Daily News.

Lake: School board members will ask the state for an exemption to the state order that schools reopen at full capacity in August. “Our local health department has advised the school board that for a sustained reopening, the Lake County School District needs a waiver for the order,” reads the letter to the Florida Department of Education. “Lake County Department of Health has agreed that it is appropriate for the Lake County School Board to open brick and mortar schools at reduced capacity.” Daily Commercial.

St. Johns: A new school calendar was approved Tuesday by the school board that sets opening day on Aug. 31 and the final day on June 10. The board also approved the overall reopening plan that details students’ learning options and creates a contingency plan if the pandemic worsens. District officials said about a quarter of students chose the remote learning option that is attached to a student’s school. The board also approved spending $1.6 million for about 77,000 desk shields. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT.

Sarasota: The district’s reopening plan has been approved by the Florida Department of Education. The school year begins Aug. 31. Classes will be given in-person, remotely while following the school schedule, and virtually. Masks will be required for students, though the final details have yet to be decided. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. School board members have tentatively approved a $964 million budget with a slightly higher millage rate. A final vote will be taken in September. North Port Sun.

Marion: About two-thirds of parents have chosen in-person learning for their children, according to district officials. The first day of school will be no later than Aug. 24, said Superintendent Diane Gullett, which gives the district more time to train teachers, implement safety protocols and hire teachers to fill 100 vacancies. WKMG.

Clay: The first day of school has been moved from Aug. 11 to Aug. 25, and the school board also has approved a proposal to require students in grades 3-12 to wear masks while children in K-2 will be strongly encouraged to do so. Students will have the option of in-person attendance or one of two virtual programs, and middle and high school students can select a blend of in-person and virtual learning. WJXT. WJAX.

Leon County: The first day of school has been moved back another week, to Aug. 31, the school board decided on Tuesday. It’s the third time the start has been moved, and it will be the last, according to board member Alva Striplin. “We will not adjust (the start date) after this unless mandated by the state,” she said. “This is it.” Superintendent Rocky Hanna said final adjustments are still to be made to the school calendar, but he estimated the last day would be during the second week in June. He also informed the board that 30,000 laptops ordered for students are not likely to arrive before the first day because of some overseas delivery problems. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WTXL. WCTV.

Okaloosa: The first day of school has been pushed back from Aug. 11 to Aug. 31 to give the district more time for training teachers and other staff members on the new safety protocols that have been put in place. The last day of school will be June 9. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: School board members voted 4-1 to approve adding the Alachua Digital Academy as a learning option for students when schools reopen. Under that option, students would remotely follow their classes and regular school hours. WGFL. WCJB.

Bay: School board members approved a delay in the first day of school until Aug. 20 and a new learning option for students when they do return. It’s called BayLink, and it will allow students to remain enrolled in their school while following their classes and teachers remotely. Students now have four choices. Panama City News Herald. WMBB.

Hernando: Students, staff and visitors will be required to wear face masks at district schools, the school board decided Tuesday. WFTS.

Martin: District officials and the teachers union couldn’t reach an agreement Tuesday on a start date for schools, so the first day has been set for Aug. 11. Last week, the board tentatively approved moving the first day from Aug. 11 to Aug. 25, but it was contingent on a deal being reached between the union and the district. The last day of school is now June 1, and students will lose previously scheduled days off during the Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC.

Citrus: A requirement that students wear face masks on school properties and buses for the next 90 days was approved Tuesday by the school board. Exceptions were made for children under 2, at times when social distancing is possible, during meals and doing strenuous physical activity, among others. The first day of school also was moved from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: School board members have approved a proposal to start the school year Aug. 24 instead of Aug. 10. The last day will be June 1, and students will lose days during Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks. Flagler Live. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. WJXT.

Sumter: The first day of school will be Aug. 24, a week later than originally scheduled, school board members decided on Tuesday. Masks will be required on buses, and encouraged in schools. Students have three choices for instruction: in-person, self-directed virtual or following the school and class schedules remotely, according to the district plan. WKMG.

Monroe: Students will start the school year with at least four weeks of online-only classes, the school board decided Tuesday. The start date will also be delayed, perhaps by a week to Aug. 17. Decisions about the first day and the status of the fall sports seasons will be announced this week. District officials will re-evaluate coronavirus conditions the week of Sept. 7 to see if a firm date can be set when students are safe to return to schools. Florida Keys Weekly.

Jackson: Students will be required to wear masks on school buses and during class changes, the school board unanimously agreed on Tuesday. Two masks will be given to each student. Those who don’t follow the rules could be pushed into online-only learning after three warnings, said Superintendent Larry Moore. WMBB. WJHG.

Washington: The first day of school is scheduled Aug. 12, but the school board could change that today at a special meeting. Superintendent Joseph Taylor is urging the board to delay a week or two. Students will have five learning options, and will not be required to wear masks. WMBB.

Bradford: School board members have withdrawn one of the remote learning options. Bradford Innovations would have allowed students to remotely attend their own classes on regular class schedules through the use of web cameras in classrooms. Parents who had already chosen that option will have to make a different selection. WJXT. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Classes at the University of Tampa will start Aug. 26 instead of the previously scheduled Sept. 8, so the first semester will end at the Thanksgiving break. Students will take exams online after the holiday. Most classes will be in-person, a decision that has drawn criticism from some students, especially those from other states. Tampa Bay Times.

More on the coronavirus: The largest teachers union in the country, the American Federation of Teachers, said “safety strikes” could be called if districts try to reopen schools without adequate safety measures. Teacher strikes are against the law in Florida. The Hill. Politico. High school football coaches in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties are considering a potential postseason tournament in case the state championships are postponed. Pensacola News Journal. Leon County high school sports teams will only be allowed to play other county schools this fall, according to director of student activities Scott Hansen. WTXL.

Teacher pension case settled: A Houston financial advisory firm has agreed to pay $40 million to settle charges that it deceived Florida teachers from nearly every district into investing in retirement products that brought the firm higher fees. Valic Financial Advisors made payments for 13 years to a company owned by teachers unions in return for the unions promoting their products. Politico Florida. Education Next.

New school: Lee County school officials are considering putting Lehigh Acres Middle School into a new building now under construction. Originally, the plan was to open an all-new middle school to ease congestion in the eastern part of the county. If Lehigh Acres Middle does move into the new building in August 2021, its building will be renovated and occupied by Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, a nearby K-8 school. Fort Myers News-Press.

School alert system: The south Florida city of Coral Springs will be the first in the country to begin using an alert system intended to speed up law enforcement’s response to a school emergency. The Coral Springs Charter School and Chabad of Coral Springs have been awarded grants and will soon be installing the Active Law Enforcement Response Technology from IntraLogic Solutions. Sun Sentinel.

Education podcasts: Civil rights icon H.K. Matthews talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about his friendship with the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and why he thinks education choice is a natural extension of the civil rights era. redefinED.

Personnel moves: Christine Paul, an assistant principal at Marathon Middle/High School in Monroe County, has been named the principal at Stanley Switlik Elementary School. Florida Keys Weekly.

School elections: The two candidates for the District 4 seat on the Pinellas County School Board talk about what school district is doing well in and areas that need improvement. Tampa Bay Times. The two candidates for the District 2 seat on the Alachua County School Board talk about the achievement gap, returning to schools and improving parental involvement. Gainesville Sun.

Employees and the law: An Alachua County teacher has been arrested and accused of possession of child pornography. Police said Eugene Shintock III, 32, a teacher at Archer Elementary School, is charged with possession of obscene material, possession of child pornography, transmitting child pornography and using a two-way communication device to commit a felony. Gainesville Sun. A Leon County teacher has been arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious behavior involving a child and unlawful use of a communication device in furtherance of the crime. Brian Winsett, 51, a physical education teacher at Woodville PK-8 School, has been placed on leave. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s education system made great strides using the reform and accountability infrastructure that sprang from Blueprint 2000. But that infrastructure has aged. It’s time for Blueprint 2030. Doug Tuthill, Step Up For Students. Educators, school leaders and policymakers from the ’90s Blockbuster generation would be wise to take note and quickly adapt to this emerging environment of remote learning or our current public education model will soon become obsolete just like Blockbuster’s brick-and-mortar stores. John Legg, Florida Politics. New forms of schooling termed micro-schools are popping up. While there’s no common definition that encompasses what they are, think one-room schoolhouse meets blended learning and home schooling meets private schooling, with a fidelity to personalization and success for all in small communities. Michael B. Horn, Education Next. There are many Manatee County teachers who are in favor of opening schools and we are willing to do what it takes to make sure that all of the necessary precautions are taken to ensure our students and staff remains safe. Martha Ferra, Bradenton Herald.

Student enrichment: Grants have been awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for six Farm to School programs in Florida. The Leon County School District will receive $100,000 for the Woodville K-8 School to expand its gardening beds, plant citrus trees and possibly buy some goats. Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff