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Cyberattack strikes district, Phase 2 of reopening requested, testing deadline extended and more

Around the state: Miami-Dade school officials blame some of the technical problems they’ve seen in the first two days of online learning to a cyberattack, Palm Beach County is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis for permission to enter Phase 2 in the state’s reopening plan with students returning to school classrooms three or four weeks later, and a 6-year-old girl in Tampa has died of complications from the coronavirus to become the youngest victim in the state. Here are more developments on school reopenings and other news from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: A cyberattack is being blamed for at least some of the technical problems that continued into the second day of remote learning in the district. While technicians were working to solve the software problems, they discovered a cyberattack. “There was a malicious attempt, malicious well-orchestrated complex attempt at derailing the connection which is essential for our students and teachers,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. He said the FBI, FDLE and Secret Service have all been notified. Miami Herald. WSVN. WFOR. WPLG. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: Astrid Reyes, a 6-year-old girl who emigrated from Honduras to the United States a year ago with her mother, has become the youngest person in the state to die from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. She became ill Aug. 16 and died at a St. Petersburg hospital three days later. She was born with a heart murmur, and would have turned 7 on Monday. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange, central Florida: About 450 students and employees have been placed into quarantine in central Florida after positive coronavirus cases were discovered at schools. That includes 199 people in Orange County, 158 in Seminole, at least 72 in Osceola and at least 19 in Lake, but not the nearly 600 who were sent home when Harmony Middle School in Osceola County was closed. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. As more teachers go into quarantine, central Florida school districts are finding themselves short of substitutes. Kelly Education Services, which supplies temporary teachers, said about 60 percent of its substitutes are filling permanent jobs. WKMG. A searchable database has been set up to track coronavirus cases and quarantines among students and employees in nine central Florida school districts. WKMG. A free tutoring program started by Lake Highland Preparatory School student Mimi Sawhney, called Learn With Us, has tripled in size since April, with more than 100 students volunteering to tutor more than 400 students. WESH. A 52-year-old school bus driver who was waiting to pick up students in Orange County was beaten and choked by a man who then ran off before being arrested. WESH.

Palm Beach: County commissioners voted Tuesday to ask Gov. DeSantis if the county can begin Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan by Sept. 8. The request proposes that schools reopen to students who prefer in-person learning three or four weeks after Phase 2 begins. School officials said they will soon be asking parents to decide if they want their children to return to classrooms for face-to-face instruction. Palm Beach PostSun Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. More than 100,000 laptops have been handed out to students who need them for remote learning, but there’s still a shortage because about 60 percent need one and the district is receiving only about 10,000 a week from its supplier. WPTV.

Duval: The number of students considered “missing” from the school district has declined every day since schools opened, but remains about five times higher than it was a year ago. After Day 7 last year, the district reported 1,076 students fewer than projected. This year it’s 5,135. WJAX. A positive coronavirus case has been confirmed at Abess Park Elementary School. WJAX. Several doctors are urging the school board to release the number of coronavirus cases in schools, even though the county health department has told the district the information is confidential and can’t be released without the state’s permission. WJXT.

Polk: Students at the Lake Wales Charter High School were switched to online learning after two members of the staff tested positive for the coronavirus and 20 employees had to be quarantined. Classes are scheduled to resume Sept. 14. WTVT. The school district is announcing new cases and quarantines nearly every day, and Bartow High School has been called “a COVID-19 fiasco in the making” by the online publication The Daily BeastLakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Eight more classrooms have been quarantined because of reported coronavirus cases at Clearwater Intermediate School, Boca Ciega High and Pinellas Park Elementary. Thirteen schools have now reported COVID-19 cases. Florida Politics.

Lee, southwest Florida: School board members approved a temporary policy to follow the recommendations of health officials on the use of protective gear such as face masks if it’s determined they will help slow the spread of the coronavirus or any other infectious disease. The policy gives the superintendent the power to set the guidelines for the use of all protective gear on campuses. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. District officials said one of the technical issues with remote learning has been solved. Frustrated parents said there are several others still to be fixed. WINK. An employee at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers has been diagnosed with the coronavirus and is in quarantine. WZVN. Two students in the Cape Coral Charter School system have tested positive for the coronavirus. School officials are tracing contacts of those students. WINK. WBBH.

Pasco: When Starkey K-8 opens next fall, hundreds of students who attend Odessa or Longleaf elementaries or River Ridge Middle could be rezoned to a different school. District officials are working on a map with new boundaries. Starkey K-8 will be a STEM magnet school, and can take up to 1,500 students. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Two more schools have closed classrooms for two weeks after positive cases were reported. Audubon Elementary on Merritt Island and Golfview Elementary Magnet School in Rockledge are the first two schools to report positive cases since schools reopened Aug. 24. District officials said Golfview will be closed for the rest of the week. It was also disclosed Tuesday that 22 of the county’s schools, including Golfview, are without permanent or temporary school nurses. Florida Today. The county’s nine Catholic schools had smooth openings, said Henry Fortier, school superintendent for the Diocese of Orlando. But enrollment is down from the 2,400 students the schools had last year, he said, as more parents have chosen home-schooling because of the pandemic. Florida Today.

Seminole: County commissioners have voted to distribute $5.48 million of the federal coronavirus aid it received to the school district. WFTV.

Manatee: More than 100 students and employees from Palmetto High School were sent into quarantine after a teacher tested positive for the coronavirus, according to school board member Scott Hopes. Palmetto High was one of three county schools that reported COVID-19 cases and exposures on Monday. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA. WTSP. WWSB. Bay News 9.

Sarasota: First-day enrollment was about 6,000 below projections, with 36,740 students in attendance. District officials expect more students to show up, but said they will build their budget with a contingency fund in case the dropoff continues. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The district is developing a dashboard to report coronavirus cases in schools. Communications director Craig Maniglia said he hoped it would be on the district website by Monday, and it’s expected to be updated at least weekly. WTSP. County commissioners are giving the school district $343,000 of their federal coronavirus aid to improve Internet access in low-income neighborhoods for students who are learning remotely. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB.

Marion: Fewer than 50 students and employees are in quarantine since schools reopened Aug. 24. The latest is a teacher at Forest High School whose husband contracted the virus. The teacher tested negative and is asymptomatic, but she and her two children will be out of school for two weeks. WKMG.

St. Lucie: More than 100 students and eight employees at Fort Pierce Westwood Academy have been asked to go into quarantine after a student tested positive on Monday. Classes began Aug. 24, and at least five other schools have reported cases. WPTV.

Escambia: Timothy Smith, the executive area director in the high school office at the Orange County School District, has been chosen as the new school superintendent. Smith becomes the first appointed superintendent in the district’s history. He replaces Malcolm Thomas, who is retiring Nov. 17. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Leon: A group of students calling themselves Students for Safe Schools is trying to convince other students who opted for in-person instruction to switch to remote learning. WFSU.

Alachua: School board members were wary about sending students back into schools, but on Tuesday complimented the district’s employees for making the first day a success. Gainesville Sun. The district has created a web page to track coronavirus cases. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: District officials have released a new app for students and parents that allows easy access to assignments, attendance and grades. It’s called Focus, and project manager Margaret Gamble called it “one more way we’re trying to make communication with parents much easier.” WMBB. WJHG.

Indian River: Superintendent David Moore said three students but no employees have tested positive for the coronavirus since schools opened Monday. Fifty-seven students have been asked to quarantine at home. WPTV.

Flagler: Seven positive coronavirus tests were reported in the first week of school. Four students and three employees were infected, and 47 students and employees were placed under quarantine. District officials said they are developing a report about cases that will be released to the public weekly. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Teachers from Flagler Palm Coast High School are asking the school board to set aside Fridays as “enrichment” days instead of instructional ones. Flagler Live.

Walton: Only two positive coronavirus tests have been reported since county schools reopened Aug. 17, according to Superintendent Russell Hughes. One of the cases was a teacher’s aide and the other a student. Thirteen students and two employees were quarantined. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Jefferson: A few problems were reported on the first day of school in the district, which is operated by the charter school company Somerset Academy. About 75 district-issued iPads had to be adjusted after students reported they couldn’t get onto the virtual learning platform. Connectivity problems were also noted, and the district is considering buying more WiFi hotspots for students who are living in areas without reliable Internet service. WFSU.

Bright Futures eligibility: The deadline for Class of 2020 students to take the SAT and ACT to try to improve their scores and qualify for Bright Futures scholarships has been extended to Dec. 1. Gov. DeSantis signed an executive order Tuesday. Students originally had until June 30 to take the test, but that was extended and parents had been lobbying for the change since the companies that sponsor the tests had canceled several times because of the pandemic. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. WKMG. WJXT. WFLA.

New leadership for FEA: The president of the state’s largest teachers union resigned Tuesday after being elected secretary-treasurer of the national American Federation of Teachers. Fedrick Ingram, who won a three-year term as president of the Florida Education Association in 2018, becomes the first FEA member to hold one of the three top offices at AFT or the National Education Association. FEA vice president Andrew Spar takes over the presidency of the state union and Carole Gauronskas becomes the vice president. The next elections are in 2021. WLRN. Gradebook. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida.

FEMA won’t pay for masks: The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday that as of Sept. 15, it would no longer reimburse states for the costs of cloth face masks and other personal protection equipment for schools and other non-emergency settings. NPR.

Trump wants patriotic education: President Trump issued a call Tuesday for schools to restore “patriotic” education with students being taught that America is “an exceptional, free and just nation, worth defending, preserving and protecting.” Politico. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: The adversary to progress for black students is not the terminology used for analyzing standardized testing results, but rather the latent systemic racism that these tests reveal. Education choice gives them a way out of a system that for too long has worked against them. Keith Jacobs, redefinED. Forcing at-risk teachers to return to the classroom is the wrong policy for the Palm Beach County School District. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff