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No reprimand for Fennoy, reopening guidance, a philosophical shift, charter closed and more

Reopening guidance: Florida is one of 23 states that gave schools no clear public health criteria to guide reopening decisions, according to a new report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a self-described nonpartisan research center. Florida was also one of four states that didn’t provide specific criteria but did require schools to reopen for in-person instruction regardless of the spread of the coronavirus. “Vague and varying guidelines leave reopening vulnerable to shifting politics and may contribute to a crisis of confidence among teachers and parents about going back to school,” the report suggested. Education Dive. Teachers unions in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have accused state and local education officials of negligence and recklessness in reopening schools before it’s safe to do so and without an appropriate investment in safety precautions. The unions are asking teachers and supporters for support on social media under the hashtag #SafeSchoolsSFL”. Representatives from both districts said they are following national and state safety guidelines. Miami Herald. WPLG. WFOR.

A philosophical change: The Florida Department of Education is proposing a rules change that would allow college graduates with philosophy majors to teach social science classes in K-12 schools. Right now, graduates need a degree in social science, social studies, history, political science, geography, sociology, economics or psychology to teach social science courses. It’s a change that’s long overdue, said experts, and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran agreed, calling their exclusion a “historical oversight.” Public comment on the change is being taken through Monday, and a hearing is scheduled next Wednesday. Fresh Take Florida.

Around the state: The Palm Beach County School Board voices its support for Superintendent Donald Fennoy, Broward voters would back a delay to reopening schools, several northwest Florida school districts are closed again today because of the impact of Hurricane Sally, resignations and retirements are up sharply this year over last in Alachua County, teachers are fired in Nassau County, the Florida Virtual School continues to have technical issues, and the Board of Governors may consider raising tuition rates at state universities. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: The Archdiocese of Miami will begin a phased-in return of students to schools on Sept. 23. All students should be back in classrooms by Oct. 2, said Archbishop Thomas Wenski. Miami Herald. WFOR.

Broward:  A new poll concludes that Broward voters are willing to delay the reopening of school classrooms until the health and safety of students, teachers and their families can be “guaranteed.” Two-thirds of the 682 people surveyed support the delay, while 27 percent want schools to reopen immediately. Sun Sentinel.

Orange: More than 600 people have signed a petition objecting to the district’s plan to require a rapid-results coronavirus test for every football player, coach and athletic director in the county every two weeks. Greg Hatch, whose son plays at Dr. Phillips High School, called the tests an overreach and a violation of his son’s privacy. “All of the kids on campus are sharing their results, so you can’t tell me that patient privacy is protected with all of this,” he said. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said, “The issue with our football players is that they are the most exposed, it’s a high-contact sport, they don’t wear facemasks.” WFTV. WKMG. A 5th-grader at Sunset Park Elementary in Windermere was asked to remove his Hooters-themed face mask. School officials said it wasn’t appropriate. CNN.

Palm Beach: Even as they conceded that Superintendent Donald Fennoy had made mistakes in during the district’s preparation to reopen classrooms, school board members rejected calls from the teachers union to fire or even reprimand him during Wednesday’s meeting. “Everyone is doing the best we can, and that includes the superintendent,” said board member Erica Whitfield. Colleague Karen Brill concurred. “I don’t think this is the time to talk about an evaluation,” she said. “I think we have to keep our focus on the prize.” Schools reopen for students Monday. Fennoy outlined the changes they will face, such as being required to wear face masks and maintain social distancing. Those with COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated and nurses will begin contact tracing. A lot of students will be sent home, acknowledges county health director Dr. Alina Alonso because the COVID symptoms so closely resemble those of the flu. Palm Beach PostSun Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. The new Verde K-8 school opens Monday in Boca Raton. More than 600 students will be in classes, while about 440 will learn remotely. WPTV. A project by 8th- and 9th-graders at Palm Beach Day Academy to grow coral in a lab and document the process has culminated with the filming of a documentary, The Coral Project, that will air on local PBS stations. Palm Beach Post.

Lee: Just weeks after a new charter school opened, it has been shut down by the school board. The K-8 Collegiate Charter School in North Fort Myers was closed after district officials observed dirty classrooms, food spoiling in the kitchen, a lack of adults to supervise students, paperwork problems and a lack of communication from school officials. “I served as a school-based administrator for approximately 18 years, and I will tell you, walking into the learning environment, it was one of the most disturbing that I’ve seen,” said Denise Carlin, executive director of school development for elementary schools. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX.

Pasco: Parents of online students who are struggling with their schoolwork can expect a call from their teachers, said Superintendent Kurt Browning. “I have talked to staff about reaching out to parents when you see these kids who are falling through the cracks,” he said. “They have got to be informed if their child is not performing.” In some cases teachers might suggest that a student needs a different learning approach, although Browning said, “Ultimately, the parent has got to make the decision whether or not they’re going to keep their child at home. I want parents to have all the information before they decide.” Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia: Fifty-six children have contracted the coronavirus in Volusia County since schools opened, and 25 of those have been reported in schools. Twenty-one school employees have also been infected in that time period. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Thirty more people were advised to quarantine after coronavirus cases were discovered at four schools Tuesday. The district has now reported 59 positive coronavirus tests since schools started Aug. 17, resulting in 817 people being exposed to infection. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: This week’s school board meeting was roiled with racial tensions as parents protested an instructional video that students could see on a vendor’s website. In the video, a cartoon character explains the progress made on civil rights since the 1950s and outlines the history of the Black Lives Matter movement. “You want to take my money? Teach my child,” said Ashley Cote, who has a child in elementary school. “Do not indoctrinate him with your beliefs and your political agenda.” Superintendent Brennan Asplen pulled the video, prompting board members Jane Goodwin and Shirley Brown to question whether he should be appeasing a small group of parents. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Northwest Florida: Schools in Escambia, Okaloosa, Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Liberty, Jackson, Santa Rosa, Gadsden, Walton and Washington counties are closed today because of flooding and power outages caused by Hurricane Sally, which made landfall Wednesday morning near Gulf Shores, Ala.  Pensacola News Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Panama City News Herald. WEAR. WTXL. WMBB. WJHG. WCTV. Florida Department of Education.

Leon: A 1st-grade teacher in Tallahassee has her students detailing their experiences and feelings in a journal as a way to cope with any anxiety they might be encountering because of the coronavirus. Chloe Bonnell said her Canopy Oaks Elementary School students are learning to take breaks when they are overwhelmed, and they have reacted to the pandemic by being kind to each other while continuing to socialize from a distance. Florida Phoenix.

Alachua: Resignations and retirements are up sharply in the school district over last year, according to district records. In 2019, 55 teachers resigned and seven retired between July and September. In that same time span this year, 67 teachers resigned and 23 retired. WUFT. Gainesville Sun. A school bus was involved in a three-vehicle crash Wednesday. The driver of one of the vehicles was critically injured. No students were aboard the bus. WUFT.

Hernando: A 16-year-old student has been arrested and accused of taking a gun to Hernando High School. Several students told the school resource officer that the student had shown them a gun, but by then he had gone home on a school bus. He was arrested at his home. WTVT. Tampa Bay Times.

Martin: Twenty-one students and a teacher from Martin County High School have been placed under quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus. Since schools reopened, more than 500 students and staff have been in quarantine. WPEC. The four finalists for the superintendent’s job answered questions from school board members and took part in a community forum on Wednesday. Today, board members continue the interviews. The top candidate will be announced Sept. 22. TCPalm.

Citrus: The school district’s free breakfast and lunch program for all students has been extended to Dec. 18. Students in schools or those taking classes virtually are eligible. Citrus County Chronicle.

Nassau: Twenty-six teachers and six paraprofessionals will be laid off Friday due to a drop in enrollment of 800 students, according to reports. Enrollment was projected to be 12,620, but has come in at about 11,800. Some of those teachers could be hired back to fill 14 open positions. WTLV.

Bradford: A Bradford Middle School student was ordered Tuesday to remove a face mask that had a message of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. School officials told the mother of the 12-year-old student that it was “too political.” The black mask contained the words I CAN’T BREATHE in large red letters and BLACK LIVES MATTER in smaller white letters below. WJXT.

Education podcasts: Kevin Currie-Knight, a teaching assistant professor at East Carolina University and an advocate for the practice of self-directed learning, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about how efficient markets drive innovation and why public education is not an efficient market, the history of public school funding and the myth that educational choice is a means for segregation. redefinED.

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BY NextSteps staff