School reopenings, learning choices, contract negotiations, COVID count discrepancies and more

Around the state: Broward’s school board meets today to consider its school reopening options, Miami-Dade prepares for some students to return to classrooms Monday, some Pinellas parents who want their children to return to in-person learning may be placed on waiting lists, discrepancies are being noted between the state’s coronavirus dashboard and those released by some districts, and a disagreement over raises for veteran teachers stall contract talks in Brevard. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: The district has announced the safety precautions that will be in place when students begin returning to schools Monday. Students will be required to wear masks, practice social distancing, get their temperatures taken at school and fill out a health survey. Bus riders will have to wash their hands before boarding, and only one student per seat will be permitted. Desks in classrooms and cafeteria seats will be spaced out, meals will be prepackaged, and all school areas will be sanitized every day. WSVN. Florida Phoenix. WPLG.

Broward: School board members meet today to consider moving up the first day of in-person schooling to Monday. The board had voted for a phased-in approach starting Oct. 14 and concluding Oct. 21, but are reconsidering after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered the district to reopen Monday or risk losing state funding. Miami-Dade also was ordered to reopen for students Oct. 5 under the same threat, and the school board agreed to do so. WPLG. The Broward school district is now requiring parents and students to commit to their choice of in-person instruction or remote learning for the rest of the semester. Sun Sentinel. A teacher at the private North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut has resigned after being ordered to take down a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom. Middle school teacher Nadine Cutler said she doesn’t regret her choice, and hopes her students learned something from the incident. WLPG.

Hillsborough, Pasco: Hillsborough schools have reported 66 coronavirus cases in the past week, with 41 among students. Since the school year started Aug. 31, 284 confirmed cases have been reported, with 199 among students. In Pasco, 24 students and 17 employees have tested positive in the past week, bringing the totals to 111 students and 52 employees since schools reopened. More than 2,500 students and 260 employees have been quarantined. Florida Politics.

Palm Beach: The school district has about 2,800 substitute teachers, but it’s not enough, according to district officials. Gail Williams, the director of administrative and non-instructional staffing, said on any given day only 47 percent of those subs accept jobs. She said many of those subs are hesitant because of the coronavirus or because they aren’t comfortable with the technology they’d need to use. WPTV. The seven teachers who lost a request for an injunction against the district’s plan to reopen schools are asking the court for another hearing. WPEC. The Palm Beach school district is now requiring parents and students to commit to their choice of in-person instruction or remote learning for the rest of the semester. Sun Sentinel. WPTV.

Polk: Officials said Wednesday that 196 positive coronavirus cases in about half the district’s schools have been reported since the reopening Aug. 24.  There were at least five cases confirmed between Aug. 24 and Sept. 3 that resulted in the quarantining of more than 100 students. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Some parents who are trying to move their children from remote learning back into the classroom for the second nine-week period are discovering that not all such requests will be automatically approved. Many are being told district officials that they’ll be put on waiting lists until it’s determined if space is available. “We don’t want people to be miserable given their circumstances,” Superintendent Michael Grego recently told the school board. “However, we also put this caveat over all of it: We need to keep the safe environment first and foremost.” He said that means keeping class sizes at 15 to 20, depending on the grade level, so social distancing can be maintained. Families can apply for the switch until Oct. 6, and should get an answer by Oct. 19. Tampa Bay Times. Eight more students have tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, from seven schools, resulting in partial quarantines for 15 classrooms and a bus. Florida Politics.

Lee: A positive coronavirus case has shut down a classroom at Villas Elementary School in Fort Myers, forcing those who were in it into quarantine. No other information was released. It’s the second shutdown of an entire classroom in the district since schools reopened. Fort Myers News-Press. WBBH.

Brevard: Raises for veteran teachers have become the sticking point in negotiations between the school district and the union. The two sides are in tentative agreement to boost the starting pay to $46,550 and also raise current teachers who are not yet making that much to that level. But the district is offering a $710 raise for veteran teachers who are making more than $46,550, while the union wants $950. “We are thrilled that our early career educators and those educators under the new minimum salary will have their salaries raised to $46,550. This is a step in the right direction to elevate the education profession,” said union president Anthony Colucci. “However, to leave our veteran teachers so far behind is not in the best interest of this district or the students it serves. Experience matters.” Negotiations resume Oct. 7. Florida Today.

Volusia, Flagler: The state’s new coronavirus dashboard reports school-by-school information, something the counties will continue to withhold. The information presented also does not agree with the counties’. Volusia shows 26 more cases than the state does, and Flagler 20 more. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Dave Miner, who has been a school board member since 2012, is being challenged for his District 3 seat by Mary Foreman, a certified public accountant and a member of the district’s audit committee. Campaign issues have been the performance of Superintendent Cynthia Saunders, who is supported by Miner, and when the renewal for a 1-mill property tax referendum should go before voters. Foreman favors it being on the general election ballot to save costs, while Miner backs a special election to simplify communications with voters. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. For the third time since schools reopened, the district reported no positive coronavirus cases. But there was still some confusion after the Florida Department of Health released its coronavirus figures, which disagreed with the district’s. Bradenton Herald.

Collier: Florida’s first campus K-9 has been placed at the Village School of Naples with school resource officer Daniel Bledsoe. Colby detects guns, ammunition, gunpowder and black powder, said Bledsoe. A company called Skool Dogs trained Colby and two other dogs to work specifically at three U.S. schools. WINK.

Lake: Rosemary Pilonero, a music teacher at Villages Elementary of Lady Lake, has been chosen by the Florida Music Education Association as the 2021 elementary music educator of the year. Daily Commercial.

St. Johns: County teachers will be given an extra hour every Wednesday to catch up on grading or planning, but they said it’s not enough. “While I think it is wonderful and know it will be a challenge schedule wise, it is just one step in the right direction,” said union president Michelle Dillon. “Our teachers are absolutely overwhelmed with the dual platform” of simultaneous teaching. St. Augustine Record. According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, the St. Johns County School District had 69 positive coronavirus tests between Sept. 6 and 26. The biggest outbreak was at Nease High School, where seven students and a teacher have been infected. St. Augustine Record.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: More than 350 teachers in the St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River school districts are teaching subjects they aren’t certified in, according to records from the districts. St. Lucie County has 222 out-of-field teachers, Indian River 111 and Martin 45. School officials said the pandemic has led to modified learning structures for the school year, increasing the number of out-of-field teachers in Martin and Indian River classrooms. TCPalm. Martin County school officials said they’re moving to an upgraded Zoom subscription to improve security. Training will be offered for students. WPEC.

Clay: A former custodian at Clay High School has pleaded guilty to attempted production of child pornography in 2019, and faces 15 to 30 years in federal prison. Jason Brian Goff, 44, was arrested in 2019 and accused of filming girls changing their clothes in the locker room. WJAX. Florida Times-Union.

Leon: The state high school cross country meet will be held Saturday in Leon County after commissioners repealed a requirement that athletes test negative for coronavirus before being allowed to compete. The Florida High School Athletic Association had threatened to move the meet if the mandate had stayed in place. WTXL.

Alachua: County commissioners tentatively proposed last month to give the school district $5 million of the $46 million the county received from the federal coronavirus relief bill, the CARES Act. Now the district is asking for $13 million to help cover a budget deficit. County Commissioner Ken Cornell said the board wants to help, but only has about $10 million left. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: The school district has released thousands of pages of documents that had been subpoenaed as part of a federal investigation into its dealings with companies for construction work and garbage pickups. The documents pertain to the construction of Tommy Oliver Stadium, the Bay High STEM building and Fine Arts Center. WMBB. St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Panama City has been renamed St. John Catholic Academy. School officials said the change was made after the campus was renovated, and a preschool and new classical curriculum were added. Panama City News Herald. WMBB.

Charlotte: Theodore Kiselev, a senior at Charlotte High School, and some friends have started a project called “Help When Needed” to assist shelters, schools, veterans, the disabled and others when they require it. “I just really want to emphasize while there is so much negativity out there right now, change can happen, and when small changes happen in the community, other people will notice and want help. Happiness spreads,” he said. Charlotte Sun.

More on the coronavirus: State teachers who are spending their own money on basic protection against the coronavirus are discovering that the Florida Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program has rules prohibiting reimbursement for such equipment as disinfectant wipes and plexiglass desk shields. “I’m going to have students coming in and sitting at a desk and touching things and then leaving. And then more students will come in and sit in those same desks,” said Brigette Kinney, an English teacher at Coral Gables Senior High School. “And we’re not allowed to spend our supply money on something to wipe down the desks. It just doesn’t make any sense.” WLRN. Gov. Ron DeSantis has extended a waiver for one more month to allow virtual government meetings, including school boards. In-person meetings will be required starting Nov. 1. Florida Politics. Large districts across the country are struggling on how to open schools safely without federal guidance they feel they can trust. Politico.

Audit critical of Safe Schools: An audit of Florida’s Office of Safe Schools has determined it is understaffed and not fully carrying out the responsibilities required by the Legislature when it passed a law forming the agency. Employees from the Department of Education have assisted in carrying out its duties, according to the audit, which is contrary to the law governing the agency’s role. Auditors also said the agency hasn’t established a formula for distributing state money to districts for training school employees to carry guns, and has problems with its portal that is meant to share information about potential threats between districts and law enforcement. Associated Press.

Education podcasts: The principal and the coordinator of special programs for the Archdiocese of Miami Catholic Virtual School talk with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about how and why the program was created, how it creates options for Catholic families across the nation, and legislative changes needed to bring more customization and flexibility to families. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: Are Florida’s policies on K-12 accountability and school choice harming the opportunity the state’s students have to pursue careers in math- and science-intensive fields like engineering, physics and computer science? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. In forcing the reopening of schools, under the implied threat of a loss of funding, the state has been in denial and a bully. What it hasn’t been is truly committed to saving lives. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff