Union asks judge to lift stay on reopenings ruling, revenues recovering, safety pledge and more

Judge asked to lift stay: The legal maneuverings continue in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s order to reopen schools. Monday, Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ordered a temporary injunction against the order. The state quickly filed an appeal that placed a stay on the ruling until the appeal can be heard,  probably several months from now. Now the Florida Education Association, which brought the suit, is asking the judge to vacate that stay, arguing that allowing the stay to remain in force puts the safety of students and staff at risk from the coronavirus. The state responded Wednesday by filing an argument that the stay should remain in place because allowing the ruling to go into effect would “sow confusion and disarray.” It’s unclear what effect vacating the stay could have, if it were to happen. All but a few school districts have already reopened classrooms for students or will do so by Monday. News Service of Florida.

Revenues rebounding: General revenue collected by the state was $2.5 million over projections in July, the first increase since the March report that was delivered just after the coronavirus shut down much of the state’s economy as well as schools. That was despite sales tax revenues being $165.2 million below the forecast made in January by state economists. “The road ahead will not be easy, but today’s news should give us every reason to be hopefully optimistic that our state will fully recover from this unprecedented pandemic, and we will return to the quality of life we all cherish,” said Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, wrote in a memo Wednesday to state senators. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Around the state: A majority of Floridians support a statewide face mask mandate, worry about the risk of having children in classrooms and agree with a judge’s ruling against a state order to reopen schools, according to a new poll from Florida Watch and Progress Florida. Here are more developments on school reopenings and other news from the state’s districts and private schools:

Broward: A longtime principal is under fire for posting a photo to social media last year showing him standing under a Blue Lives Matter flag on the anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Peter Bayer has been principal of Pembroke Pines Charter High School for more than a dozen years. City officials, who run the charter school, have received complaints and say they are looking into the incident. Some students have started a petition drive to support Bayer. WFOR.

Orange: Thirteen students and eight employees from 18 schools had tested positive for the coronavirus as of last Friday, according to district officials. They did not say how many people had been asked to quarantine. WKMG. WFTV. Orlando Sentinel. District leaders said they won’t make any changes to the school calendar because of the ruling in the school reopening lawsuit. They’ve decided to wait until the issue is resolved in the courts. WMFE. Students have started a petition to reverse the district’s decision prohibiting bands and cheerleaders at high school football games. WOFL. WESH.

Palm Beach: Schools start Monday with online learning, but as many as 75,000 of the 175,000 students expected to return won’t have a computer provided by the district. Laptops were ordered but have been held up by increased nationwide demand and disruptions in the supply chain. Mike Burke, the district’s chief financial officer, conceded that “our plan does hinge on a portion of students utilizing their own personal device.” Palm Beach Post. School board members have approved a change in policy governing visitors to schools as a safeguard against the spread of coronavirus. Only current students, staff and pre-approved parents, guardians and vendors and contractors will be allowed to visit campuses, they will have to call ahead, and they will have their temperature taken before entering any building. WPEC. Both of Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s in-laws died in Alabama within four weeks of each other of complications from the coronavirus, he said Wednesday during a back-to-school discussion. WPTV. WPEC.

Duval: The district’s plans to create a dashboard to display information about the coronavirus in schools has been put on hold. Health officials told the district that under state law, school-specific data about the coronavirus can’t be published without permission from the Florida Department of Health. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV. Teachers in Title I schools are eligible for $1,000 grants from a Jacksonville Public Education Fund and the Community First Cares Foundation grant program. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: Two students who were asymptomatic and awaiting the results of coronavirus tests attended Boone Middle School and Bartow High School’s Summerlin Academy anyway, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd told school board members this week. Both tests later came back positive, and the classmates and staff who were exposed are now in quarantine. Board member Lisa Miller said she was stunned and wrote on her Facebook page, “If your child has a COVID test pending – please don’t send them to school.” Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Students at Carwise Middle School and the Pinellas Academy of Math and Science charter school have tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the quarantining of 11 classes. A student at Clearwater High School also has been infected, but hasn’t been at the school so no quarantines were needed. Florida Politics.

Lee: Schools reopen Monday with a sense of anxiety for many teachers who still aren’t sure of their assignments and other employees worried about their safety. While Superintendent Greg Adkins said the district is ready, he also concedes he’s not expecting a smooth start to the school year. “I still have a great deal of confidence that we’re going to be in a good place on Monday,” Adkins said. “Now having said that, I think we all should be ready for, you know, not absolutely a smooth opening.” He also said he expects teachers to know their class assignments by the end of the week, and thanked them for their “flexibility and agility.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Pasco: A student at Fivay High School in Hudson has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to district officials. No other information was released. WFLA.

Osceola: Four teachers at Harmony Middle School tested positive and five others are in quarantine, five teachers from Neptune Elementary School are quarantining after one tested positive, and one KOA Elementary teacher is quarantining while awaiting test results. Orlando Sentinel.

Seminole: More than 175 people are in quarantine after being in close contact with about a dozen people from nine schools who have tested positive for the coronavirus. All affected students and teachers are moving to remote learning through the quarantine period. WMFE. Orlando Sentinel.

Volusia: School board members have decided to proceed with their plan to reopen schools Monday, despite a judge’s ruling this week that the state order to reopen schools in August was unconstitutional. The teachers union had lobbied for the board to start the school year with online-only classes until it’s safe to return to classrooms. “Our hands are tied,” said board member Ruben Colon. “We are all being asked to do something impossible. Could we do it better? Yes. But I can assure you there is not one person in this district building who is not working 24/7 and doing their best to accomplish the impossible.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Kinnan Elementary School’s principal has been suspended without pay for five days after returning to work while waiting for the results of a coronavirus test. The test came back positive, and a few other employees were directly exposed. In a school newsletter, principal Paul Hockenbury apologized for not following district policy to stay home while waiting for a test result, but disagreed with the punishment. Bradenton Herald. WWSB. Four more schools and two colleges have reported new coronavirus cases. That brings the number of cases to more than a dozen since schools opened Aug. 17. Affected are Blackburn Elementary School, Gullett Elementary, Manatee High, Manatee School For the Arts, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and the State College of Florida. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: Nineteen students have been quarantined at Tavares High School after two students tested positive for COVID-19. Lost Lake Elementary, Lake Technical College, Leesburg Elementary and Mount Dora High also reported that five staff members had been infected and are under quarantine. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel. Eighteen Lake County schools have been honored by the Florida Department of Education for their work in promoting parental and community involvement in schools. Daily Commercial.

Sarasota: The Florida Elections Commission has ruled that a political action committee chaired by school board member Eric Robinson did not violate election laws prohibiting partisan campaigning in nonpartisan elections. Robinson said the allegation may have been a factor in the loss of his board seat to Tom Edwards. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: Enrollment for the first day of school was about 32,400 students, which is 6,000 below the first day for the 2019-2020 school year. District officials said they expect enrollment to increase but they are trying to track down the “missing” students, since funding from the state is determined by enrollment. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie: Forty students and 17 employees from three schools have been put under quarantine this week after testing positive for the coronavirus or being exposed to it. Affected were 15 staff members at Weatherbee Elementary School, 22 students and two teachers at St. Lucie West K-8, and 18 students at Samuel S. Gains Academy K-8, according to a district spokesperson. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC. Several students in both St. Lucie and Indian River counties were dropped off at the wrong school bus stops this week. Officials are investigating. WPTV.

Clay: Superintendent David Broskie said Tuesday’s first day of school went well, with just a few problems for students trying to log in for online learning. About 24 percent of the district’s students are learning from home. Keeping children socially-distanced at lunch was also a challenge, but teachers said they saw improvement Wednesday. WJAX.

Leon: School officials are considering a proposal to cut down on the quarantine time for teachers who have been exposed to the coronavirus but have not tested positive from the current 14 days to three days. Superintendent Rocky Hanna is pushing for the change, which is based on federal guidance. Schools open Monday. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.

Okaloosa: Wearing face masks when schools open Monday will not be mandatory, the school board decided Wednesday. In a 4-1 vote, the board rejected the recommendation of Superintendent Marcus Chambers and instead is giving students the option of wearing masks in schools. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Indian River: A Sebastian River High School teacher has been reassigned while district officials investigate an allegation that he was watching pornography in between online classes he was teaching from home. Two students who were still logged in after the class ended said they could see what the teacher had on his screen. WPEC. TCPalm.

Walton: Three people in the district have tested positive for the coronavirus, shutting down one classroom. Superintendent Russell Hughes said nearly all students are wearing masks even though it’s not mandatory, though he said that could change if more cases are reported. WMBB.

Washington: Superintendent Joe Taylor said the first day of school went well, with students and staff adapting quickly to the new safety measures. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: Student government leaders at university campuses across the state have started a community health campaign encouraging  students to sign a pledge to follow coronavirus safety guidelines. Among the guidelines: wearings masks in public, frequently washing hands, practicing social distancing and limiting gatherings to small groups. Tallahassee Democrat. The state’s universities and colleges are trying to maintain control of the coronavirus by suspending students and organizations that don’t follow school safety guidelines. News Service of Florida. The University of Central Florida has just 10 percent of its 69,000 students on campus, but has reported more than 500 coronavirus cases since those students moved in. WESH. Just 3,100 students are living on campus this semester at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Enrollment last year was over 30,000 at the school’s six campuses. Students are wearing masks, only about 20 percent of classes are being held in-person and no guests are allowed in dorm rooms. WPTV.

Education podcasts: Educational choice pioneer Stephen Sugarman talks about how America differs from other modern countries that fund K-12 religious schools if they meet regulations and more in the last segment of a podcast series with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: Circuit Judge Charles Dodson struck an important blow for home rule — not to mention common sense — in approving the state’s largest teacher union’s legal challenge to a state-mandated reopening of schools. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. Alachua County schools should halt in-person classes only as a last resort. Keeping brick-and-mortar schools closed poses its own risks to the well-being of children, while putting parents who are unable to work from home in an impossible situation. Gainesville Sun. For students whose fulltime needs aren’t being met by traditional methods, or who need a part-time supplement to their traditional school, Florida Virtual School offers a blueprint on how remote learning can succeed. Maya Washburn, redefined. What if we let kids take a year off? Instead of virtual school or brick and mortar, we just closed it all down? Let kids have a year of being kids by playing and exploring? Sally Butzin, Tallahassee Democrat. Any conversation about getting rid of school resource officers must go hand in hand with a discussion about more guidance counselors and mental health supports for students. Andrew J. Rotherham, The 74. Florida is already sliding toward a basic K-12 educational model that would limit the career aspirations of the state’s students. We certainly don’t need any additional push in that direction from an out-of-state school operator who suggests that K-12 schools eliminate the teaching of concepts that most adults don’t use. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff