Judge won’t reconsider support for ban on mask mandates, teacher dies of COVID, and more

Ban on mask mandates stands: A federal judge has declined to reconsider his Sept. 15 ruling denying a request for a preliminary injunction against an executive order signed July 30 by Gov. Ron DeSantis that prohibited districts from imposing face mask mandates without giving parents an option to opt-out. The request had been filed by a group of parents of children with special needs, who argued that not allowing districts to impose mask mandates made schools “even more dangerous” for their children, who are more susceptible to serious illness or death from COVID-19. News Service of Florida. The Florida Board of Education meets Wednesday to consider whether 11 state districts are complying with the state’s rules on face mask mandates and, if they aren’t, to decide whether and how to punish them. The districts have required students to wear face mask mandates with opt-outs allowed only for medical reasons. The state’s rule gives parents the right to opt-out. News Servive of Florida. WFSU. Florida Politics.

Around the state: A 44-year-old 5th-grader teacher in Citrus County has died of complications from the coronavirus, court petitions have been filed to stop the Duval and Alachua school districts from enforcing their face mask mandates, Sarasota school board members may vote this week on repealing the district’s face mask policy, Brevard school board members are considering a proposal to limit the amount of time allowed for speakers at board meetings, Hillsborough school district officials are being urged to help cut down on the number of violent acts being committed at a middle school, and students in a Lee County high school are learning in class how to operate the school’s new $124,000 digital scoreboard. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: District bus drivers demonstrated Saturday for higher pay. “We’re tired of being paid little money,” said driver Dan Dasher. “Been there 25 years, 30 years, not even making $20 an hour. We’re tired, overworked, underpaid and we want to be paid.” WTVJ. A student with a weapon was arrested Thursday outside of Lamar Louise Curry Middle School near Kendall West, according to district officials. WPLG. Olen Kalkus, the first male headmaster at the all-girls Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove, said last week he is stepping down after seven years to return to teaching. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: The number of violent acts is soaring at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, according to an e-mail sent to school board members last week. District spokeswoman Tanya Arja said an additional security officer, assistant principal, success coach and clerical staff have been hired to help, but one 20-year teaching veteran said she has “never worked at a more chaotic place.” A white board in the principal’s office calls Greco the “third most violent school in Florida.” Tampa Bay Times. The number of coronavirus cases reported in the Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school districts last week dropped 30 percent to 886, the lowest weekly total so far this school year. Tampa Bay Times.

Duval: An emergency petition was filed with an appeals court Friday to stop the school district from enforcing its face mask mandate that allows opt-outs only for medical reasons. Attorneys for parents in both Duval and Alachua counties said the districts are violating Florida Department of Health rules that give parents the sole authority to decide if their children will wear masks. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Polk: Four more Kathleen High School students who were involved in a protest against the principal last week have been arrested. Deputies who reviewed the school’s security video concluded that the four “criminally escalated matters beyond a simple protest,” and have been charged with disruption of school function and resisting without violence. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: Twenty-nine students enrolled in an advanced TV production class for sports broadcasting at North Fort Myers High School are learning how to operate the school’s new $124,000, 14-foot by 24-foot digital scoreboard during school football games and other sporting events. Students also will learn how to build digital graphics and other animations, and sell and create ads for the scoreboard. “They can apply a lot of the stuff they’re using in this class towards scholarships and internships,” said Joe Edwards, who teaches the class along with Eric Bronson. Fort Myers News-Press. A student at Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers was arrested last week after allegedly throwing rubbing alcohol on a teacher during an experiment in a chemistry class. WBBH.

Brevard: School board members are considering a new policy that would restrict the amount of time speakers could comment at board meetings. The proposal would also prevent speakers from raising signs and push comments about items not on the agenda to the end of meetings. Recent meetings have been extended by hours because so many people want to speak, and security has had to intervene several times when comments became confrontational. The earliest the board could approve the proposal is Oct. 26. Florida Today. WKMG.

Manatee, Sarasota: Sarasota school board members will vote this week whether to repeal the district’s face mask policy, which had already been temporarily suspended after the county’s coronavirus positivity rate dropped below 8 percent for three consecutive days a week ago. The item was placed on Tuesday’s agenda by Superintendent Brennan Asplen because he’s worried about confusion if positivity rates continue to fluctuate and lead to back-and-forth changes in the mask policy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Sarasota school district is allowing field trips to resume and visitors and volunteers back on campus, starting today. They had been banned since Aug. 10 because of COVID-19. Patch. Thirty-two Sarasota County high school seniors and seven from Manatee are among 16,000 U.S. semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Jan Pullen, the director of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton since 2003, has announced she will step down on June 30, 2023. Bradenton Herald.

Leon: After a rash of arrests of students having weapons in schools, Sheriff Walt McNeil announced that patrols will be increased in and around schools and that his department will coordinate a “full law enforcement response” to address the issue. Law enforcement agencies have confiscated six firearms, two knives and a set of brass knuckles on school campuses this year. WTXL. A Leon High School student was arrested at school Friday and accused by U.S. marshals of possession of a firearm by a delinquent and two counts of firing into an unoccupied dwelling. WTXL. Mark Clow, the Trinity Catholic School teacher arrested last week on child pornography charges, has been fired by the school. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: An emergency petition was filed with an appeals court Friday to stop the school district from enforcing its face mask mandate that allows opt-outs only for medical reasons. Attorneys for parents in both Alachua and Duval counties said the districts are violating Florida Department of Health rules that give parents the sole authority to decide if their children will wear masks. Gainesville Sun. WJXT. The number of COVID cases in the district continues to decline. In the past 14 days, 127 students and 10 employees have contracted the virus, down from 266 students and 15 staff members in the two weeks before Sept. 17. Gainesville Sun. Another student has been arrested for making a bomb threat against a school. The threat was called in against Gainesville High on Wednesday, and the arrest was made Friday. Between Sept. 19 and Oct. 1, 12 threats have been made against five schools. WGFL. WJXT. The district’s free after-school virtual tutoring program, Beyond the Bell, has begun and will continue throughout the school year. WUFT. Superintendent Carlee Simon has become a media sensation defending the district’s face mask mandate during appearances for national media organizations. Tampa Bay Times.

Santa Rosa: A new educational facility will be built on the South Walton campus of Northwest Florida State College in a collaboration between the school and the Seaside School Foundation. The Seacoast Collegiate High School will be a dual-enrollment center with both high school and college classrooms as well as shared space for workforce development and continuing education. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Citrus: Sherry Lee Dunn, a 5th-grade teacher at Lecanto Primary School, died Sept. 16 of complications from the coronavirus. She was 44. The Florida Education Association statewide teachers union said 89 state school employees have now died of COVID complications since July. Citrus County Chronicle. District officials are being lobbied to reconsider having athletic trainers at schools after a 16-year-old Citrus High School student, Antonio Hicks, died last week after a football practice. The issue was broached in 2008 by assistant superintendent Jonny Bishop, but rejected because of the costs. Board member Ginger Bryant said she didn’t recall the 2008 discussion, but indicated she might be interested in revisiting the issue depending “on what we find out about this young (student who died).” Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Nicole Critcher has been named the principal at Old Kings Elementary School in Palm Coast. Critcher has been in the district 20 years, most recently as assistant principal at Matanzas High School for three years. Flagler Live. A 12-year-old student at Buddy Taylor Middle School in Palm Coast has been arrested and charged with sending written threats to kill after her teacher overheard her say Thursday that she was going to “shoot up the school.” The girl told deputies she was “just playing.” Flagler Live.

Franklin: Kelley Mosley, a former behavior counselor for the school district, has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a student under the age of 18. She was fired in April after allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a student, and arrested last weekend after a former coworker said Mosley had admitted in texts that she had intercourse with a student. WTXL. WCTV. WMBB. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: Authorities found the body of a missing Valencia College student on Saturday in Orlando. Miya Marcano, 19, of Pembroke Pines, had been missing since Sept. 24. The prime suspect in the murder committed suicide after being questioned by deputies about Marcano’s disappearance. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald. Indian River State College is getting a $5 million federal grant to increase the number of minority students into science, technology, engineering and math fields. TCPalm. A $1 million donation to the Daytona State College’s School of Nursing program from Carol and Bob Allen will provide money for scholarships and equipment. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Faculty members at St. Petersburg College have voted overwhelmingly to form a union. It will become the 34th chapter of the United Faculty of Florida. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that once vaccines are fully cleared for students ages 5-11 and 12-16, those students will be required to get the shots. It would be the first state to make such a mandate Associated Press. NPR. Increasingly, school districts are requiring student athletes, band members and others in extracurricular activities and students in after-school programs to get vaccinated. Politico. Forty-five percent of parents who have children 11 or under said they have no plans to get them vaccinated, according to a poll from the Gallup organization. The 74. A recent survey shows that teachers are almost twice as likely as other government employees to say they have had a difficult time adjusting to changes brought on by the pandemic. K-12 Dive. The Democrats’ currently stalled $3.5 trillion stimulus plan includes a broad expansion of pre-K programs. Florida Phoenix.

Opinions on schools: If we’ve learned one thing from the pandemic, it’s that our education system must be flexible and centered around students. A single, one-size-fits-all pathway for every kid will never deliver great results. A quality education that meets a child’s needs unlocks countless doors. It can break cycles of poverty, lift up communities, and help ensure all students can reach their God-given potential. Jeb Bush, RealClear Education. Palm Beach County School Board member Alexandria Ayala, who supports students wearing masks in schools, has made herself an easy target for local anti-mask protesters by being photographed without a mask at a recent party at the Breakers. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The Santa Rosa County School District has responsibly provided enough information for parents to make decisions for their children based on the exact same numbers that county officials are using to craft public policy. Pensacola News Journal. History will smile far more kindly on the proactive officials in the Sarasota school system who put the face mask mandate in place than it will on the reactive forces across the district who did all they could to undermine it. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff