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Hillsborough is on a deadline, superintendents ask state for help, reopening suit paused and more

Hillsborough’s deadline: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has given the Hillsborough County School District until Friday to amend its proposed reopening plan to conform with state requirements or risk losing millions in funding. The school board voted last Thursday to begin the school year Aug. 24 with four weeks of online-only learning, but Corcoran rejected that plan on Friday. He said the district can revert to the plan the Department of Education has already approved, submit an updated plan for each school the district wants to keep closed, or withdraw the plan and continue under existing law, which could mean a loss of some funding for students who are learning remotely. District leaders contend that they followed the state’s order, and they’re discussing their next move. Both Corcoran and Gov. Ron DeSantis were critical of Hillsborough during an appearance Monday at a county charter school, saying that 66 of the state’s 67 districts made plans that met the needs of parents and that reopening schools was worth the risk. WTVT. Tampa Bay Times. Gradebook. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Bay News 9. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS.

Superintendents’ request: Florida’s school superintendents are asking the state for guidance on two coronavirus-related issues. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents wants the state to assure districts that they will have access to rapid test results, and it’s asking for a statewide policy on what a district should do when students and staff become infected or show symptoms. “As superintendents, we feel it is imperative that we have these statewide protocols to guide our collaboration as soon as possible so we can provide more explicit guidance for our school leaders and clear information to our staff and community at large,” wrote FADSS president Michael Grego, the superintendent of Pinellas County schools. News Service of Florida.

Lawsuit in limbo: The lawsuit brought against the state’s school reopening order that changed venues last Thursday from Miami to Tallahassee is on pause while court administrators try to find a judge to hear it. At least two judges have already recused themselves. The state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, brought the suit, claiming the order is a violation of the state constitution that requires safety and security in public schools. FEA officials said they expect a hearing this week, and added that their offer to meet with Gov. DeSantis to discuss options had been refused. WJXT. WCJB.

Around the state: Monday was the first day of schools for several districts around the state, and more return today. Meanwhile, 43 school districts have had their reopening plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. The latest are Alachua and Hendry. Here are more developments on the first day of instruction, school reopenings and other news from the state’s districts:

Miami-Dade: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said teachers and parents have better tools and are better trained and prepared to deliver quality online instruction when schools reopen Aug. 31 because of the struggles the district had last spring when it was forced to switch abruptly because of the coronavirus. “Where I think we needed to improve, and we’ve done work on this, is actually improving the experience,” Carvalho said. “Building additional accountability, continuous remote teaching opportunity, not just three hours between teacher and student. Much more regimented, much more guided. That’s the improvement we’re going to see.” Miami Herald. WPLG.

Broward: Superintendent Robert Runcie reiterated on Monday that schools would open Aug. 19 with all students learning remotely, and that would continue at least until October. He said the district would reassess the state of the coronavirus in the county around Oct. 1 to decide if it’s safe to have students return to classrooms. “We’re not going to do it until we can create a type of safety environment— I don’t want to say a safe environment because there’s no such environment that’s going to be 100 percent safe,” Runcie said. “If we’re waiting for that, we’ll never bring kids back.” Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WTVJ.

Orange: Students began the school year Monday with remote learning only. Officials called the day successful, with a smattering of computer slowdown and log-in problems. “For our first day, we thought it went phenomenally well,” said Superintendent Barbara Jenkins. “We expected some glitches. It will get better as the week carries on.” Online-only learning continues until Aug. 21, when the 30 percent or so of students who chose in-person instruction return to classrooms. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. The city of Orlando is opening six learning “pods” at neighborhood centers where students can be dropped to attend schools remotely. WFTV.

Palm Beach: Under pressure from the state, Superintendent Donald Fennoy is proposing to change the district’s school reopening plan. Students would still begin the year Aug. 31 with online-only classes, but Fennoy is now asking the school board to approve the potential return of all students to classrooms when coronavirus conditions improve, instead of phasing them in with select grade levels every two weeks. Fennoy said the “offered feedback and requested a modification, which I agree will be in the best interest of our students and parents.” Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. Boca News Now. WPEC. The district is offering an elective class to middle school students this year on racism and discrimination. WPTV.

Lee: Teachers who raised money for air purifiers for their classrooms have been told by school officials that those machines become property of the district as soon as they’re placed in classrooms, but the district won’t maintain them. “If a teacher solicited donations through sites such as Go Fund Me or Donors Choose and included the School District of Lee County or their school name in their description, then they have engaged in a fundraiser for the school,” the district said in a statement. “The items collected become school property and the fundraising paperwork needs to be filled out.” WBBH.

Manatee: Band, chorus and other music programs are being removed from the district’s curriculum during the first semester, according to officials who pointed out that instruments can’t be shared during a pandemic. Classes in music appreciation will still be offered. WWSB. The district’s custodians said they’re as prepared as they can be to keep schools clean and disinfected, but they pointed out that “it’s going to take a team effort” to keep everyone safe from coronavirus infection. Bradenton Herald. WTVT.

Lake: The school district is offering free coronavirus testing to all teachers. On Monday, about 3,000 teachers were tested and six were found to be infected. Testing resumes today. Schools reopen Aug. 24. WFTV. Daily Commercial. WKMG.

Sarasota: New Superintendent Brennan Asplen was sworn in on Monday. He was hired for the job July 14 over 30 other candidates. Asplen’s arrival sends interim superintendent Mitsi Corcoran back to her old job as chief financial officer. She held the job for about eight months after Todd Bowden resigned under pressure for his handling of a sexual harassment allegation against another administrator. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Leon: Superintendent Rocky Hanna said the district will consider swapping sports seasons, with higher-risk sports such as football, volleyball and cross country moving to the spring, and track, baseball and softball moving to the fall. WTXL. WCTV.

Santa Rosa: More than 80 percent of the district’s students will return to classrooms when schools open Aug. 24. More than 23,700 students chose in-person learning, while just over 2,200 chose a remote option. WEAR.

Bay: Punishment will be a “last resort” for students who refuse to wear masks when schools reopen next week, said Kara Mulkusky, the director of student services. Instead, she said, officials will use those incidents as “learning moments.” WJHG.

Martin: More than 1,600 signatures have been collected for a petition asking the district to delay the first day of school until Aug. 25, but district officials said schools will open today as planned. Superintendent Laurie Gaylord had recommended schools start Aug. 25, but the proposal hinged on an agreement between the district and the union about working conditions. No deal was reached, so the first day was set for today. TCPalm. WPTV.

Walton: Almost 75 percent of the district’s 10,700 students have chosen to return to classrooms for in-person instruction, according to district officials. Another 1,800 did not register their preference. Classes begin Aug. 17. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Monroe: A 2018 video recently was posted online that shows police officers trying to handcuff an 8-year-old boy at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West after the boy punched a teacher in the chest. The cuffs weren’t used because they didn’t fit, but the officers told the boy he was going to jail. The video was posted on the Twitter account of attorney Benjamin Crump, a Tallahassee civil rights lawyer. Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg said the officers did nothing wrong. Miami Herald. Key West Citizen. WPLG. WSVN. The school board meets today to vote on setting the first day of school as Aug. 19 and tentatively approve a budget of $230.5 million. Key West Citizen.

Suwannee: Students returned to classrooms Monday for the first time since March, with strict measure on social distancing enforced. Masks are optional for students and teachers, and a handful wore them. About 900 of the district’s 5,900-plus students chose a virtual learning option. WCTV.

More on the coronavirus: Nearly 100,000 U.S. children tested positive for the coronavirus during the last two weeks in July, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. CNN. About 4 in 10 U.S. school districts need to repair or replace the air-conditioning and heating systems in at least half their schools, which could prompt more classes being held outdoors. Associated Press. Experts said the online learning experience can be improved with structure and higher expectations. Palm Beach Post. The Florida High School Athletic Association has reversed its decision of last week and will now livestream Friday’s board of governors meeting, where a decision is expected about the fall sports season. Tampa Bay Times. On Monday, the FHSAA’s sports medicine advisory committee discussed ideas how to have a fall sports season and setting coronavirus benchmarks that need to be met before that can happen. Florida Times-Union. At least 25 states have delayed the fall school sports season or are considering doing so. Education Dive. Paul Jones of Panama City has been refurbishing laptops to distribute to students who need the devices for school. Panama City News Herald.

School elections: A federal election complaint has been filed against Eric Robinson, who is running for re-election to the District 3 seat on the Sarasota County School Board. It alleges that Robinson, as treasurer of a political action committee named Florida Country, accepted a $2,500 donation from a Canadian company. Robinson said he simply recorded the donation, and that it wouldn’t have been noticed at all if he hadn’t reported it. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Volusia County School Board chair Ida Wright has two challengers for her District 2 seat, Anita Burnette and Andre LaVon Grant. All three talk about their qualifications and top priorities. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: A new policy brief posted to the Arizona Charter Schools Association website suggests that combining project-based micro-schools with rigorous live distance learning can create a new path, to scale, for high-demand schools and can unleash new opportunities for teachers while addressing equity concerns with pandemic pods. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. The Hillsborough County School Board should stand by its decision to reopen schools with four weeks of online-only learning for the safety of students and staff. Ryan Haczyinski, Tampa Bay Times. Here’s how rocket scientists would develop a plan for reopening schools. Robert Bordley, Florida Today. As schools open today, the Martin County School District has one, overriding priority: Enforcing the rules. And being hardcore about it. That’s the only way this works. Gil Smart, TCPalm.

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BY NextSteps staff