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Waiver requested for volunteer hours, guns in churches with schools bill, vaccinations and more

Pandemic side effect: Students who need volunteer hours to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships are finding a shortage of opportunities because of the coronavirus pandemic. Typical volunteer spots like hospitals and nursing homes have been closed to the public for months, giving students fewer places to compile the required 100 hours of service. Now students and some school leaders are asking the Florida Department of Education for a waiver of the requirement, as it granted last spring when the outbreak began. So far the DOE has demurred. “At the moment there is no consideration of another waiver of statute, regarding Bright Futures’ requirements,” said Brett Tubbs, DOE press secretary. “Of course, we will continue to monitor the data of students’ meeting the qualifying requirements.” Politico Florida.

In the Legislature: The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a proposed bill that would allow people with concealed carry permits to take guns into churches even if there’s a school on the property. Current law prohibits guns in schools, but S.B. 498 would change it to give churches the authority to decide whether to allow guns on their properties. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. A bill that would require union employees such as teachers to affirm that they want dues taken out of their paychecks did not get a scheduled vote Monday at a Senate Judiciary Committee because the committee ran out of time. News Service of Florida. CPR training and EKG tests for athletes would be required in public schools under H.B. 157, which is being supported by a nonprofit formed after a 20-year-old suffered cardiac arrest. Matthew Cobb survived, but about 90 percent of those affected do not. WFTV.

Around the state: More than 1,000 Lee County students who had been learning remotely returned to classrooms Monday, Martin County names its teacher of the year, Citrus County reveals its top school-related employee, Pasco’s school board will begin livestreaming its meetings, a Bay County middle school gymnasium hass reopened two years after being damaged by Hurricane Michael, Manatee school employees over 65 begin to get vaccinations, and 27 Florida hospitals are getting limited number of coronavirus vaccine shots for “extremely vulnerable” residents under 65 who have underlying medical conditions. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: More allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against a former Terra Environmental Research Institute Magnet School history teacher who is awaiting trial on a charge of raping a 17-year-old high school student in 2016. At least three women have accused Tom Privett, now 71, of sexually abusing them when they were underage. Privett, who taught in the district for more than 30 years before retiring, has denied the charges. Miami Herald.

Orange: The pandemic has been a productive time for an Orange County 5th-grader who wrote a book and had it published. Caleb Ffrench wrote about a superhero who saves the world in I Am Thunder, which is being sold on Amazon, and now he’s planning to write another. WMFE.

Polk: The school district is using coronavirus relief funds to offer Ridge and Travis Technical College students money to help them earn industry certifications as patient care technologists, home health aides, nursing assistants and welders. The money can be used for tuition and fees or to offset living expenses. Lakeland Ledger. A social science coach in the district’s curriculum and instruction department has been arrested and accused of driving under the influence. Deputies said Amy Steele, 45, ran her pickup truck into a barbed wire fence Sunday, and tests showed her blood alcohol content was more than two times the legal limit. WKMG.

Lee: More than 1,000 students who had been learning remotely returned to school classrooms Monday. The district also closed off a classroom, at Patriot Elementary School in Cape Coral, because of a coronavirus case. It’s the district’s ninth classroom to be closed because of positive tests since the school year began. The quarantined students will switch to remote learning for 10 days. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX.

Pasco: The school board will start livestreaming its meetings today at 9 a.m. Board member Megan Harding, who has been an advocate since her election in 2018, said, “I’m so happy. I think it will help people stay more engaged.” Tampa Bay Times.

Manatee: The first group of eligible school district employees, including teachers, received their first coronavirus vaccinations on Monday. About 300 employees in the district are eligible because they’re over the age of 65. Vaccinations continue today. Bradenton Herald. WWSB.

Sarasota: Three promotions have been announced by school Superintendent Brennan Asplen: Chris Renouf, the executive director of elementary schools, will replace the retiring Laura Kingsley as chief academic officer; North Port High principal Brandon Johnson will succeed Renouf; and McIntosh Middle School principal Harriet Moore has been named the district’s first director of innovation and equity. Moore begins her new job March 1, while Renouf and Johnson start July 1. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

Bay: Two years after it was destroyed by Hurricane Michael, the gymnasium at Jinks Middle School in Panama City has reopened. The first sporting event in the new gym, a basketball game, is this afternoon. WJHG. WMBB.

Martin: Leigh Anne Pike, the library media specialist at Martin County High School, has been named the Martin County School District’s teacher of the year. Kate Logan, a 5th-grade teacher at Port Salerno Elementary School, was named the elementary teacher of the year, and the middle school teacher of the year is Juanita Johnson, who teaches English language arts at Stuart Middle. TCPalm. School district employees now have identification badges with buttons that can be used to summon help from first responders in an emergency. WPEC.

Indian River: Eight coronavirus cases were reported at five schools on Monday, including four at Sebastian River High School, sending 71 people into quarantine. WPEC.

Citrus: Rick Godfrey, an ESE paraprofessional at the Crystal River Primary School, has been named the Citrus County School District’s school-related employee of the year. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Two 8th-graders were hit by a car as they were walked to Buddy Taylor Middle School in Palm Coast. Both were taken to a hospital for observation, but deputies said they were not seriously injured. The incident is under investigation. Flagler Live.

Coronavirus in schools: At least 55,453 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Florida’s K-12 schools in little more than a semester, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Health data. Students made up 41,573 of the cases, teachers 4,463, other school employees 2,793, and there were 6,624 other cases reported from Sept. 6 to Jan. 23. Florida Politics.

Colleges and universities: St. Petersburg College’s trustees have rejected a proposed contract agreement between the college and the union representing adjunct instructors. The sticking point was a clause that would guarantee adjuncts $150 if their courses were canceled less than two weeks before they were supposed to start. Trustee Deveron Gibbons said he couldn’t agree to that clause because other college employees haven’t gotten raises for five years. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: Some U.S. school districts are considering extending the school year into the summer to try to regain learning progress lost because of the pandemic and ensuing remote instruction. NPR.

Opinions on schools: The Orange County School District and Jones High School are bright spots in Florida’s generally dismal high school physics picture. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. What has been uncovered, revealed, laid bare and/or disclosed in the COVID-19 apocalypse? If you said, “the need for American self-reliance,” give yourself a gold star. The less reliant you are on dysfunctional authorities to take care of yourself, your family and your community, the better. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. When we adopted our son Malachi from an orphanage in Ethiopia five years ago, we didn’t fully understand the depth of the challenges a child with special needs faced. Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship and its flexible spending has helped us overcome some of those obstacles. Kamden Kuhn, Tampa Bay Times. Agree with them or not, advocates for public support of school-choice in Florida are able to make a good-faith argument for their position. But those same advocates cannot make an honest case for continuing to provide more public money each year to private schools without demanding better standards, accountability and transparency from them. Orlando Sentinel. Education Savings Accounts are enjoying a sudden start-of-year legislative push in many states. But they’re a radical change in the fundamental concepts about our country’s educational system, and ought to come with a large, serious, spirited discussion that is not occurring. Peter Greene, Forbes.

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BY NextSteps staff