School bus camera bill introduced, capacity issues plague districts, state rule controversy and more

In the Legislature: A bill introduced in the Florida House could photograph and fine drivers who blow past a stopped school bus with its side-arm stop sign signal out. Rep. Thad Altman and Rep. Emily Slosberg introduced HB 179, which would authorize school districts to install the new camera technology on school buses to catch stopped school bus runners, requiring local law enforcement to go after the drivers for fines. Florida Politics.

Around the state: The State Board of Education will meet next week to examine whether 11 school districts complied with mask mandates, a capacity crisis is afflicting one school district while another starts new school board meeting protocols, and one university is offering vaccine boosters. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, colleges and universities:

Palm Beach: The number of students here required to stay home over COVID-19 concerns has fallen dramatically in the past month as new cases decline across the region. In late August, more than 5,000 students per day were quarantined at home after having “direct contact” with someone with COVID-19, or had tested positive themselves. Last week, the average number of quarantined students fell to 1,370, records show. Palm Beach Post.

Hillsborough: A school capacity crisis is occurring in south Hillsborough County. For example, Sumner High, which opened just 13 months ago, is 700 students above capacity. The continuing fast pace of residential growth is exceeding capacity at schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: New protocols for school board meetings were introduced at Orange County Public Schools this week. People will now be greeted by metal detectors and lines separating those who plan to speak during public comment, versus those just attending the meeting. In addition, the building will not open until 30 minutes before the start of the meeting, face masks will be required, and there will be no congregating in the lobby or the back of board chambers. WKMG.

Volusia: A book on civil rights activist Rosa Parks was pulled temporarily by the school district, then put back. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Leon: During a school board meeting, law enforcement officials pleaded with Leon residents to lock up their guns so their weapons don’t make it onto school campuses. On Monday, a student at Griffin Middle School brought a gun to school, marking the fifth time a student has been caught with a firearm at a district school this year. Tallahassee Democrat. 

Citrus: Authorities here launched an investigation into the death of a student-athlete who played football at Citrus High. The 16-year-old collapsed at Tuesday’s practice, and later died at a hospital. Citrus County Chronicle. 

Mask mandates: The State Board of Education will meet on Oct. 7 to consider action against 11 school districts with mask mandates. Those districts include: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Sarasota counties. The Orange school district, for example, imposed a 60-day mask mandate that runs through the end of October to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on campuses. That defied orders from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, which declared that parents could opt their children out of wearing masks. Orlando Sentinel. CBS Miami. TC Palm. NWF Daily News. ABC Action News.

State rule controversy: Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called a new Florida rule that restricts schools from requiring students to quarantine after having direct COVID-19 exposure “dangerous” and “irresponsible.” Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald.

Court cases: Parents of children with disabilities asked a federal judge to consider a decision rejecting their request to block Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to prevent school mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. News Service of Florida. A Florida appeals court said the Palm Beach County School Board can’t be held responsible for injuries suffered by a child who was hit by a car while crossing a road to a school bus stop. CBS Miami.

Student safety: The chairman of a commission that was started to investigate Florida’s deadliest school shooting raised concerns that a key state office tasked with helping districts maintain safety on campuses may not have enough staff. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is questioning if the state’s Office of Safe Schools is equipped to handle evolving responsibilities as its workload increases along with a growing public school system. WLRN.

Food crisis: Schools nationwide are having trouble putting food on the table for thousands of kids, with many resorting to raiding nearby stores for frozen foods to survive. NPR.

University and college news: The University of South Florida announced this week an offering of COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all eligible members of its community. The shots will be made available to “those over 65 years old, those who are considered high-risk, as well as anyone in the teaching profession, as long as it has been at least six months since their last dose,” USF said on its website. Tampa Bay Times. The Pensacola State College Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to give its unanimous support to a proposal to add a charter high school to the college’s Warrington campus. Pensacola News Journal. The Polk State College Board of Trustees elected new leadership for the 2021-22 academic year during the board’s annual reorganization meeting. Lakeland Ledger. 

Opinions on schools: Howard Fuller’s support for school choice is not rooted in a conservative agenda to privatize public schools. It is grounded in his ongoing quest to provide Black students a quality education by any means necessary. Jon Hale, reimaginED.  Tools such as artificial intelligence-based predictive analysis must be deployed to bring education savings accounts to scale in public education, and to help families successfully navigate the complex decisions they need to make for their children’s unique educational needs.  Doug Tuthill and Jen Bradshaw, reimaginED.  Gov. Ron Desantis’ latest, despicable COVID-19 order makes attending school even riskier for vulnerable, unvaccinated children. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. In the past, bonus checks for teachers were handled on the district level and paid through electronic transfers. For these bonus checks, though, the money was going to go out in paper checks. This would give DeSantis a chance to put his name on the front of every check as well as to mail it with an accompanying letter from him, in case the signature was too subtle as a gesture of soliciting thanks. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY Camille Knox