Two more schools closing, a district welcomes back students, budget problems, school police and more

Around the state: Two more schools are closing because of positive coronavirus tests while another welcomes back students for the first time since last spring, maintenance needs far outstrip funds available in one district, and online problems continue in another district. Here’s more news on school reopenings and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: The first week of online learning was marked with cyberattacks and persistent problems with the district’s online learning platform, K12, so much so that middle and high schools were ordered off it. Now district officials are asking parents and students directly for feedback on their experiences with the platform. WFOR.

Orange, central Florida: The Orange County School Board is expected to vote on a budget today that includes an additional $1.1 million to hire school resource officers and bring the district’s total to 256, even as activists are calling for the district to reduce spending for police in schools. “It seemed really alarming to us,” said Chris Furino, organizer of Central Florida Jobs with Justice. “It’s pretty clear that some of the schools … are being overpoliced.” They contend that more officers mean more arrests that put more students, especially black ones, in the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Central Florida school districts have different approaches to reporting coronavirus cases. Orlando Sentinel. Working parents of central Florida students have gotten creative in getting their children educated. Orlando Sentinel.

Polk: A charter school in Lake Alfred is switching to online learning until Sept. 21 after positive coronavirus cases were confirmed late last week. In a letter to parents dated Sept. 3, Discovery High School principal Darryl Jemison wrote, “because of these identified cases, we have determined that the safest course of action is to move all students to eLearning for the next two weeks.” The school has 842 students and 42 teachers in grades 9-12. Nearly a quarter of all Polk schools, 36, have now reported cases in the two weeks since schools opened. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Teachers and parents are lobbying the school board to end the practice of concurrent, or simultaneous, teaching at its meeting today. They say trying to teach students face-to-face and remotely at the same time isn’t effective. “The first week of school, I actually had three breakdowns, and I’m not normally like that,” said teacher Marie Hamm. Amanda Loeffler, who has three children in schools and two being taught concurrently, said “They feel like they’re not learning as much as they normally would.” She’s started a petition calling for an end to simultaneous teaching. WFTS.

Lee, Collier: Fifty-four of the state’s 67 school districts have some sort of face mask mandate. But how those mandates are enforced differs from district to district. In Lee, for example, students who refuse to wear masks will be counseled, then eventually enrolled in remote learning. In Collier, students who don’t wear masks face escalating disciplinary actions. Naples Daily News.

Brevard: Golfview Elementary Magnet School will remain closed for at least another week, district officials announced Monday. The Rockledge school was shut down last week after several coronavirus cases were discovered. “After further deliberation, in consultation with the Brevard Department of Health …  Superintendent Dr. Mark Mullins has determined it necessary to extend the closure of Golfview Elementary Magnet School’s campus until Monday, Sept. 14, to allow additional time for those impacted by COVID-19 to make a full recovery and to prevent further spread of the virus,” the district said in a statement. WKMG.

Sarasota: The district is expected to launch a coronavirus dashboard today on its website. It will include all cases going back to the beginning of the school year, and will be updated at 2 p.m. every day with cases confirmed by health officials. WWSB. District band teachers are asking the community to donate used musical instruments for students. Coronavirus safety precautions prohibit students from sharing instruments, and a tight budget doesn’t include room to buy them. Music teachers and band directors said they’ll take anything. “We want to put an instrument in each child’s hand. And we understand that everybody doesn’t have a tuba sitting in the closet of their house. So any instrument is better than no instrument,” said Sarasota Middle School band teacher Tamara Lewis. WWSB.

Marion: School officials say they face a significant shortfall in the amount of money available over the next five years to maintain aging schools. Facilities director Robert Knight said the district needs $553.9 million through the 2024-2025 school year, and expects to collect just $208.7 million. About half the district’s schools are 60 years or older, and two-thirds are 30 years or older. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: A Vero Beach High School student has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the school to put 14 students into quarantine for two weeks. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC. The classroom cleaning protocols in schools in St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River counties have been tweaked slightly since school started, with walls in classrooms reporting coronavirus cases now being wiped from the ceiling to the floor. Indian River County custodial services coordinator Ann Rieben calls it a “terminal clean.” And in Martin County, custodial workers discovered new ways to disinfect high-touch areas in cafeterias between lunch periods. TCPalm.

Leon: Julie McBride, an art teacher in Leon County County for 36 years who is now an art education professor at Flagler College, has won the 2020 Retired Art Education Award from the Florida Art Education Association. Tallahassee Democrat. Sixteen-year-old Kendall Bodner, a junior at Lincoln High School, started a STEM club at school that took on a project of making face masks for the community. WCTV.

Alachua: Fueled by revenues from an added half-cent to the sales tax, construction is booming in the district. Howard Bishop Middle School has been torn down, and Metcalfe and Idylwild elementary schools are next. New schools for Bishop and Metcalfe are expected to be ready for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, with Idylwild is projected to be completed by December 2021. Another school, called Elementary School I for now, is also going up, and other major projects are scheduled for Oak View and Westwood middle schools and Williams Elementary. Gainesville Sun.

Charlotte: A week after classes started, many students still have been unable to sign into the district’s virtual learning program. Nearly three times the number of students opted for virtual learning this year over last year, and district officials said they’re overwhelmed but doing everything they can to solve the problem. WINK.

Nassau: The district is changing its policy and will require students who choose to wear face shields to also wear masks, starting today. The change was made after officials learned that a face shield offers protection against the spread of the coronavirus only for the person wearing it. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Monroe: Students return to classrooms today for the first time since last spring. Learning will be in-person and online, high school students will alternate from day to day, and students will get carryout meals and eat in their classrooms or outdoors. Key West Citizen.

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BY NextSteps staff