Reopening issue heads to court, schools with no lunch, online-only start, a simulated day and more

Legal maneuverings: The Florida Education Association’s request for an emergency injunction against the state’s executive order to reopen schools began its path through the courts on Wednesday. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Spencer Eig scheduled a hearing for today at 11 a.m. to consider the state’s request to move the case to a Leon County court and the FEA’s request for an injunction while the lawsuit against the state is pending. If Eig decides to keep the case, on Friday morning he’ll listen to the state’s request for a stay so it can file an appeal, a move that itself would probably be appealed by the FEA. If Eig decides to send the case to Leon County, those hearings would be further delayed. Meanwhile, more than half the state’s districts are reopening schools next week. The FEA’s lawsuit is alleging that the state’s order to reopen schools to students five days a week violates the Florida constitution, which requires safety and security in public schools. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. WKMG. WFTV. WTXL. WJXT. Capitol News Service. WTSP. Florida Phoenix. Teachers around the state continue to protest against school reopenings, saying they fear for their safety. Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee Democrat. Some teachers say they’re returning to classes out of a sense of duty, while others say they have no choice. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Thirty-seven state school districts have had their reopening plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. The latest are Broward, Escambia, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, Gilchrist, Hernando and Union.  Here are more developments on reopenings and other news from the state’s districts:

Broward: Teachers union officials said they are opposed to the district’s idea of starting a pilot program of several days a week of in-person instruction for students with special needs because it won’t be safe. “If the numbers are not decreasing, why would we put our most fragile kids in that situation? Some of them have underlying medical conditions,” said union president Anna Fusco. The district is starting the school year Aug. 19 with online-only learning. WFOR. WSVN. The Florida Department of Education approved the district’s reopening plan. WSVN. The district’s headquarters was evacuated Wednesday after an employee in the building tested positive for the coronavirus. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: Some teachers at Pierce Middle School in Tampa are unhappy that they learned about their principal testing positive for the coronavirus not from the district or the principal, but from a social studies teacher at the school. In his email to other teachers on Tuesday, Aron Zions said he believed principal Pablo Gallego properly notified administrators that he tested positive Tuesday after being at the school Friday, but then communications broke down. “We, the staff, should have been notified. The impacted areas should have been cleaned. … We are supposed to have open communication and err on the side of safety,” Zions wrote. District officials said the staff notification would have been made Wednesday. Gradebook.

Orange: The push to rename Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Orlando started in 2017, and no resolution is in sight. A citizens advisory committee recommended just dropping Stonewall from the name, a suggestion that was criticized by members of the school community, which is 75 percent Hispanic. Then the pandemic delayed the process. Now the district is offering five suggested names for yet another survey, but school board members first want to discuss it at Tuesday’s meeting. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Isabella Ramirez, a student at A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, is one of five U.S. high school students who have been named National Student Poets by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. They were chosen from 20,000 applicants by a panel that included former U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Edward Hirsch, Danez Smith and Arthur Sye. Each of the five receives $5,000. Associated Press.

Duval: District students discuss their feelings about returning to school during the coronavirus pandemic. Florida Times-Union.

Pinellas: Students at seven high schools won’t get a lunch break until the end of the school day. The schools were given the option of offering a grab-and-go meal, and so far seven have opted for it. Students can bring their own snacks or buy a $1 snack bag from a mobile cart at any time during the day, which begins at 7:25 a.m. and ends at 1:50 p.m. Florida Politics.

Lee: Fourth-graders at the Alva School volunteered to participate in a simulation to show journalists what a typical day might be like when schools reopen Aug. 31. They wore masks, were spaced out in classrooms, washed their hands frequently and walked through the halls with “helicopter and Frankenstein” arms to keep a distance from each other. Nine-year-old Aiden Johnson said the day felt “weird,” but added, “It’s important that we all stay safe and we know what to do.” Fort Myers News-Press. WZVN.

Seminole: About 93 percent of the district’s 670 teachers who are considered especially vulnerable to the coronavirus and its health effects will be able to teach remotely this year. More than 10,000 students have chosen to start the year with remote learning. The first day of school is Aug. 17. WKMG.

Manatee: Superintendent Cynthia Saunders and other community leaders have formed the Mask Up Manatee Coalition to urge residents to wear face coverings if they want schools and businesses to reopen and stay open. “We knew if we didn’t do something collectively, we were going to have a very difficult time sustaining our school opening,” Saunders said during the announcement of the campaign on Wednesday. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sarasota: Students will be required to wear face coverings when schools reopen Aug. 31, the school board decided unanimously this week. Parents will be able to choose whether their children will wear cloth masks or clear face shields. The only times when coverings aren’t required are when students are engaged in strenuous physical exercise, playing musical instruments, eating, or have a medical exemption from a doctor. WUSF.

Marion: An administrative judge has 30 days to issue a recommendation in the case of a teacher who was fired in January for violating the district’s drug-free workplace policy by testing positive for cannabinoids. Michael Hickman, 50, who taught at Belleview High, has a prescription to use medical marijuana to treat a shoulder injury he sustained breaking up a fight at school, and for injuries suffered while in the military in 1991. WUFT.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: All three districts will conduct daily temperature and wellness checks on students, require masks and offer three learning options: in-person learning, virtual school or a combination of the two. Their reopening plans diverge slightly how they’ll handle transportation, meals and dealing with sick students or teachers. Martin students return to school Tuesday, while St. Lucie and Indian River schools reopen Aug. 24. TCPalm.

Leon: Superintendent Rocky Hanna is pleading with teachers and parents of students to follow the rules for wearing face masks and social distancing. In an email sent this week, Hanna said violators will be disciplined, though he didn’t say what the penalties would be. Schools are scheduled to reopen Aug. 31. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa: The number of children under the age of 17 who have tested positive for the coronavirus has grown from six on May 23 to 224 earlier this week. The total around the state is more than 30,000. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: School board members who had already approved Aug. 24 as the first day of school are now having second thoughts. The district’s plan includes in-person and virtual learning options, but teachers and many in the community want to year to start with only-only learning. The board rejected that last week after being informed that decision could cost the district $30 million in state funding. Superintendent Karen Clarke is suggesting another meeting next week to reconsider the plan. Gainesville Sun. WCJB. A district advisory committee is recommending that J.J. Finley Elementary School be renamed for Carolyn Beatrice Parker, a Gainesville native who was the first African-American woman known to have gained a postgraduate degree in physics. Parker worked on the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bombs in World War II. The school board vote is scheduled Aug. 18. Gainesville Sun.

Flagler: The district’s new school calendar gives teachers two work days instead of none, and the move pushes the final day of school back to June 3. Teachers report for work Wednesday, instead of the previously scheduled Monday. The first day of school is Aug. 24. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Thirty-seven percent of students have opted for online learning. Flagler Live.

Hendry: Students will begin the school year Aug. 10 with remote learning only, and Superintendent Paul Puletti said the district is prepared, if necessary, to stay online-only for the full school year. “My gut reaction was I do not want a decision that I make to cost somebody their life,” Puletti said. WINK. WFTX.

Colleges and universities: St. Johns River State College begins classes Aug. 17 with in-person and remote learning options, though a majority of fall classes will be online. Students will be required to wear masks on campus. St. Augustine Record.

Fall sports delay: A majority of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s athletic directors advisory committee wants the organization to delay the start of the fall sports season until Nov. 30. The FHSAA recently chose Aug. 24 as the first day of practice. The group’s board of directors meet Aug. 14 to weigh the recommendations of the athletic directors as well as those from its other committees. Sun Sentinel. Naples Daily News. Tampa Bay Times. Panama City News Herald.

Back-to-school tax holiday: Florida’s annual back-to-school tax holiday begins Friday and continues through Sunday. Exempt from state’s sales tax are school supplies that cost less than $15 per item, clothing that costs less than $60 per item, and computers and accessories that sell for less than $1,000. News Service of Florida. Charlotte Sun. WTXL.

Education podcasts: JoAnne Glenn, Pasco County’s 2020 principal of the year and one of the nation’s top online learning leaders, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the Pasco eSchool’s advantage when learning moved online during the coronavirus pandemic, the role it will play in blended instruction models when schools reopen, inequity and the digital divide. redefinED.

School elections: The two candidates for the District 2 seat on the Charlotte County School Board, incumbent Kim Amontree and challenger Joe Williams, talk about their qualifications and priorities if elected, as well as budget issues and communications with the community. Charlotte Sun. Two of the three candidates for the District 2 seat on the Osceola County School Board talk about their backgrounds and goals if elected. Orlando Sentinel. The two candidates for the District 1 seat on the Flagler County School Board, Vincent Lyon and Jill Woolbright, talk about their backgrounds and goals if elected. Flagler Live.

Employees and the law: A Broward County School District campus monitor has been arrested and accused of asking two students to send him sexually explicit videos. Deputies said Alton Johnson, 31, who worked at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, is charged with soliciting minors, transmitting harmful material to minors and being an authority figure engaged in lewd conduct with a student. WLPG. WPEC. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: Teachers, by simply being out at school, your LGBTQ students will know that it is okay to be themselves. Then perhaps your other students will begin to see the dignity and worth of their LGBTQ classmates. Melissa Roy, Orlando Sentinel. Institutes of education should be the poster child of equity, equality and excellence; these attributes should not be perceived as privileges but requirements. Xavier J. Monroe, Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff