Teacher of the year named, pre-K enrollment drop forecast, reopening injunction sought and more

Teacher of the year: Krista Stanley, a 6th-grade math teacher at Yearling Middle School in Okeechobee County, has been named the 2021 Florida teacher of the year. “Krista’s passion and commitment inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, achieve, and work towards a great future for themselves, their communities, and the world,” said Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran during Tuesday’s virtual ceremony. Stanley receives a $20,000 prize, a two-year Florida College Scholarship worth $8,000 to present to a student of her choice, and becomes a state ambassador for education for a year. The other finalists were Euan Hunter, a chemistry teacher at Ocala Vanguard High School in Marion County; Syndie White, a 3rd-grade teacher at Elbridge Gale Elementary School in Palm Beach County; Rob Paschall, a 5th-grade teacher at West Creek Elementary School in Orange County; and Kristin Wilson, a science teacher at Florida High School in Leon County. Each receives $15,000. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. Lake Okeechobee News. Florida Department of Education.

Pre-K enrollment decline: Enrollment in Florida’s pre-K program is expected to drop by more than 15,000 students, or 9.5 percent, because of the coronavirus, according to projections from the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Some educators suggested that the drop might not be that steep once schools start, but EDR coordinator Amy Baker disagreed. “I don’t know that I personally would share your optimism that things are going to look totally different in a few weeks,” she said at the revenue estimating conference in Tallahassee. “It’s not going to flip back to normal.” In January, the EDR forecast 159,799 fulltime pre-K students. Now it expects 144,555. Politico Florida.

Injunction sought: The Florida Education Association, which filed suit last week to stop state K-12 from reopening, is now asking a court for an injunction to delay the start of the school year while the lawsuit is being considered. A hearing is scheduled today in Miami-Dade County. The lawsuit claims the state’s emergency order to reopen schools to students five days a week violate the Florida constitution, which requires safety and security in public schools. WKMG. WFLA. WTSP. WCTV. WJXT. WEAR. Tuesday in Jacksonville, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he would be “cautious” about tying school reopenings to the rate of positive coronavirus test results, contending that “some labs don’t report negatives (cases) religiously.” He suggested emergency room visits was a better metric. He reiterated that the school reopenings will move forward, and cited Sweden as an example of why. “Sweden kept it open the entire time. They didn’t have a lockdown,” he said. “Sweden and Norway put out a joint statement recently saying ‘Norway shut down schools. Sweden didn’t. Guess what? Sweden was right.’ It did not increase the spread in the community.” News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Thirty-one districts have now had their school reopening plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. The latest are Brevard, Marion, Franklin and Hardee. Here are more developments on schools reopening and other news from the state’s districts:

Broward: Even though the district will begin the school year with online-only classes, district officials said they are considering starting a pilot program of several days a week of in-person instruction for students with special needs. Superintendent Robert Runcie said the idea was hatched in consultation with special education teachers. “This pilot effort will allow us to better learn and understand the issues and challenges which may come up and how we can mitigate them,” he said. “From this effort, and hopefully with improved pandemic conditions, we will be able to consider expanding school-based instruction for these particular students with disabilities.” WLRN. WFOR. WPLG.

Hillsborough: The number of coronavirus cases in the school district has grown to 251, according to district statistics. Just 10 of those have been students. The school board meets Thursday to take another look at its school reopening plan, which gives students the options of in-person attendance, following school schedules remotely, or enrolling in the flexible Hillsborough Virtual K-12. Gradebook.

Orange: A community theater group is offering to have students use their facilities for remote learning. Rhonda Kato, the founder of Magic Curtain Productions in Orlando, said parents could think of it as day-care for students who are taking classes through the school district’s Launch-Ed program. The theater has five buildings. Rooms will be limited to six students and an adult monitor will be present. “I hope that we can provide a place and feel confident their kids are safe, that the OCPS teachers are teaching them everything they need to know and they don’t have to worry about them while they are at work. There’s so many things to stress parents out these days,” Kato said. The cost is $100 per week per child. WOFL.

Duval: School employees already insured by the district would have all medical bills covered if they contract the coronavirus, under a proposal being considered by the school board. The agreement would also cover employees’ families, and rapid testing will be available for employees. “This is one of the most aggressive initiatives in the state for school district employees,” said teachers union president Terrie Brady. Florida Times-Union. School board members agreed to lease 50,000 laptops for $30 million over the next five years so that every student in the district will have one. WJAX. School board members are being asked to consider renaming three more schools: Andrew Jackson High, Jean Ribault High and Jean Ribault Middle. Board member Ashley Smith-Juarez said the schools “are named for people responsible for systematically marginalizing and killing indigenous people.” The board has already begun the process of renaming six schools bearing the names of Confederate figures. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: The Lake Wales Charter Schools Board of Trustees has voted to suspend all athletic team activities until further notice. It had been following the Florida High School Athletic Association guidelines, which called for practices for fall sports to begin Aug. 24. Trustee Greg Hall said, “There is no better way to spread (the virus) than athletics. If we’re concerned about the disease spreading, we must suspend athletics today, immediately.” Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: School bus drivers will spray a disinfectant on all surfaces a child can touch on buses, such as rails, seats and seat belts, at least four times a day when schools resume. Each cleaning will take 10-15 minutes. Students will wear masks and will be seated as far apart as possible. Fort Myers News-Press.

Pasco: Despite a protest from teachers who are worried about safely returning to school and a threatened lawsuit by the teachers union, the school board has not changed its school reopening plans. Students can return to classrooms or learn remotely when schools reopen Aug. 24. While some school board members were sympathetic to teachers’ concerns, they said they worried that if the district didn’t follow the state’s executive order to offer in-person classes five days a week, it could lose some state funding. “As a former teacher, I feel (teachers’) anxiety,” said board member Megan Harding. “We’re following the executive order. I’m too nervous to lose funding. That’s people’s paychecks and livelihoods.” Tampa Bay Times. Bay News 9. Innovation Preparatory Academy is a new K-8 public charter school opening Aug. 24 in Wesley Chapel. Students can attend in-person classes or follow those classes simultaneously, but remotely. redefinED.

Seminole: School officials have reversed an earlier decision and are now saying that elementary students must wear masks at all times in classrooms. The original reopening plan gave elementary students the option of removing masks at their desks, but Superintendent Walt Griffin said advice from health officials prompted the change. All other students were already required to wear masks times on buses and in hallways and classrooms, and can remove them only while eating, drinking or involved in high-intensity physical activities. Orlando Sentinel.

Lake: The school district will soon start offering students and teachers free, rapid coronavirus testing results. Tests are taken with a finger prick, and results are known within 10 minutes. Anyone who tests positive will be retested, and sent home if they test positive a second time. The testing also will be available for students and staff who have symptoms during the school year, which starts Aug. 24. School officials are collaborating with the county Department of Health and Adult Medicine of Lake County to offer the service. Daily Commercial. WKMG.

Sarasota: The district should proceed with its school reopening plan as outlined, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota advised school board members on Tuesday. The board asked for a set of metrics it could use to help make a decision, but program manager Michael Drennon said, “To set a specific threshold is not something that we are looking to do at this time.” Schools reopen Aug. 31 with in-person and virtual learning options. Board members said they expect to discuss the plan again when new Superintendent Brennan Asplen starts his job next week.  Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The school district is projecting a decline of 1,830 students for in-person enrollment when schools reopen. Charlotte Sun.

Bay: AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute has applied to the school district to become a charter school. A decision is expected in November. The school also is applying for a grant from the Triumph Gulf Coast fund to begin programs for iC panel construction and aerial and underwater drone operation. WMBB.

Monroe: The school year will begin Aug. 19 with online-only learning, school officials have decided. The original start date was Aug. 13, but the district pushed that back to allow more time for preparation. Students will learn remotely for at least a few weeks. District officials will re-evaluate the state of the pandemic during the week of Sept. 7. “Our eventual goal is to return teachers and students to the physical classroom as soon as we can do so safely,” said Superintendent Theresa Axford. Key West Citizen.

Jackson: About 20 percent of the district’s students have chosen the iJackson online learning program option to start the school year, district officials have announced. WMBB.

Bradford: The deadline for choosing a back-to-school learning option was Monday, but many parents said they were not aware there was a third option. A virtual option that would put cameras in classrooms to allow students to follow a regular school schedule virtually was rejected because of privacy concerns, but a new third option has been proposed. District officials said details still have to be worked out. WJXT.

More on the coronavirus: Two doctors and a health policy expert offer suggestions on how to keep students, teachers and their families safe when they return to school. Tampa Bay Times. Tips for parents on how to start a new school year during a pandemic. Tampa Bay Times.

Recession effect on achievement: A new study shows that reduced spending on education during the recession of 2007-2009 led to lower college attendance and ended the 50-year upward arc in math and reading scores among students. In the years after the recession, spending for education dropped by an average of about 7 percent nationwide, with seven states cutting by more than 10 percent and two states more than 20 percent. Some education experts are predicting cuts of 10-20 percent this year and even more next year because of the economic downtown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Education Next. The 74.

Personnel moves: Timothy Wright, who has been assistant principal at Santa Fe High School in Alachua County, has been promoted to the top job at the school. He replaces Beth LeClear, who had been Santa Fe’s principal since 2012 and is now the principal at Lake Forest Elementary. Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: Sending kids back to school right now represents a roll of the dice. What happens if it comes up snake eyes? Gil Smart, TCPalm. Broward County charter schools should follow traditional public schools and open the school year with online-only learning. Joshua Simmons, Sun Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff