State board considers new civics education rules, $25M Parkland shooting settlement, and more

Revising civics education: A proposed rule revising the state’s K-12 civics curriculum will be considered by the Florida Board of Education at Wednesday’s meeting. The rule emphasizes the instruction of America’s founding documents, such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It also would call for instilling “patriotic values” in students, teaching students the characteristics necessary to make them “upright and desirable” citizens, and having the Florida Department of Education create a video library that includes personal accounts of “victims of other nations’ governing philosophies.” The outline for the changes was pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, approved by the Legislature and signed into law by DeSantis in June. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Families of the victims of the 2018 Parkland school shooting have reached a $25 million agreement with the Broward County School District, a shortage of school bus drivers is forcing Pasco district officials to consider changing school start and end times, Pinellas will spend millions to renovate schools that were built in the 1970s with partial classroom walls and no doors, Lee school board members are divided over a proposal to join the state guardians program that would allow non-teaching employees or individuals who are not sworn police officers to carry weapons in schools, Alachua’s face mask mandate for high school students ends today, and Pasco-Hernando State College is getting a $6.1 million grant from the state to build a new education center for workforce training. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: The families of the 52 people who were killed, wounded or traumatized by the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have agreed to a $25 million settlement with the Broward County School District. Families of the 17 students and employees killed will get the largest shares. Seventeen others were wounded. “It’s a fair and frankly remarkable result,” said David Brill, an attorney for the families. “It gives the families a measure of justice and accountability.” School officials had no comment. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. WPLG. A 15-year-old girl was arrested Monday and accused of making threats on social media against at least five county schools. The threats were posted over the weekend on Instagram and possibly Snapchat, and were “specific to schools and sometimes included staff members,” said Broward interim superintendent Vickie Cartwright. Miami Herald. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Polk: The Lake Wales Charter School District has hired the Florida School Boards Association to help it find a new superintendent to replace Jesse Jackson, who resigned eight months ago. The district’s board had been considering local candidates before deciding to widen the search. “In my view, this superintendent selection is critical for us,” board attorney Robin Gibson said in a letter to FSBA. “The issue is whether the advances we have made will become an excuse for leveling off (good enough is good enough) or whether the advances will be treated as a platform for accelerating to the next level. The new superintendent’s leadership will be the single most important factor for addressing that issue.” Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: The district will spend millions of dollars to renovate three elementary schools built in the 1970s with partial classroom walls and no doors. The idea was an experiment to encourage collaboration among teachers and students. But the design has been criticized as disruptive because of the noise that carries from room to room. “When I’m teaching, we can hear what’s going on in all the other classrooms,” said Sandy Lane Elementary 5th-grade language arts teacher Kate Mamot. “It’s one of my biggest challenges. If I could just have a door and have some quiet, it would make my job easier.” Tampa Bay Times. The $44 million renovation and restoration of St. Petersburg High School is nearing completion. The school, which opened in 1926, will have a new cafeteria with home economics and art classrooms above, an updated courtyard and restored finishes throughout. “When all is said and done, this will become kind of like a museum,” said principal Darlene Lebo. Tampa Bay Times. Police shot and killed Alexander King, a 17-year-old Tarpon High School junior who was pointing a pellet gun that resembled a military-style rifle at passing cars and police officers Saturday night. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS. A Countryside High School student was arrested Monday after allegedly having a gun at school. Clearwater police said 18-year-old Angelo Garcia-Cadena intended to commit a crime against another student. WFLA. WFTS.

Lee: School board members are divided over a proposal to join the state guardians program that would allow non-teaching employees or individuals who are not sworn police officers to carry weapons in schools. Melisa Giovannelli supported the idea, saying, “What’s the price of safety? I don’t think we can put a price on it. I think it’s important to enhance our (school resource officer) programs.” Mary Fischer disagreed, saying, “I’m a lot more comfortable with our professional law enforcement being there and the ones to respond.” The district’s safety and security executive director, David Newlan, said he has concerns about using school employees as guardians. “If you’re going to be a guardian, your sole responsibility should be a guardian,” he said. WINK. WFTX.

Pasco: A shortage of school bus drivers has prompted district officials to consider changing school start and end times. The current three-tier schedule would switch to four tiers starting in January, leading to changes in schedules ranging from 10 to 20 minutes for some schools and 90 minutes for others. Superintendent Kurt Browning said changing school times was not his first choice, but other ideas hadn’t solved the problem. “Chronically late buses remain the norm,” Browning told parents in a YouTube video. “Many of our students are late arriving at school in the morning, which results in the loss of instructional time, and they are late arriving at home in the afternoon and early evening, which puts a strain on families.” Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS.

Volusia: The school board and county council selected two of 12 proposals for final consideration as they try to settle on a single voting district for both agencies. Plans I and J received the most support. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Alachua: The school district’s face mask mandate, with exceptions made only for medical reasons, ends today for high school students. They can now opt-out of wearing masks in schools with a note from their parents. The stricter mandate remains in place for K-8 students until Nov. 16. WGFL.

Bay: School officials said telehealth technology set up to help students in the year after Hurricane Michael devastated the area in 2018 came in handy when the pandemic settled in last year. “We saw that we were a little bit ahead of other counties in our state when the pandemic hit and school buildings had to close,” said Kara Mulkusky, director of student services. “One of things we were so terribly worried about was students’ well-being.” The district worked with the state and Northwest Florida Health Network to set up kiosks in schools to offer both medical and mental health services. Panama City News Herald.

Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin: Two elementary school physical education teachers have been fired after being arrested last week. Sheriff’s deputies said Darius Cohen, who worked at the Indian River Academy, and Akkua Hallback, who worked at Sebastian Elementary School, entered the wrong apartment Oct. 10 and got into a dispute with the resident that resulted in a fight and a shooting. The victim was treated at a hospital and later released. Cohen was charged with attempted murder, and Hallback with possession of a controlled substance. WPTV. WPEC. TCPalm. The three Treasure Coast school districts reported a combined total of 61 coronavirus cases among students and staff last week, down from 94 the week before. TCPalm.

Okeechobee: Several Everglades Elementary School students on a school bus became ill Monday when they smelled a suspicious substance in a container they found on the floor. The substance was tested and was found to have a high concentration of ammonia. The students were treated at the scene and released to their parents. WPEC. WPTV.

Colleges and universities: Pasco-Hernando State College is receiving a $6.1 million state grant to build a new education center for workforce training. “Students will be able to enroll in programs for a variety of in-demand industries related to manufacturing, education, health-care and aviation,” said Gov. DeSantis said Monday when announcing the grant. “These are really, really significant opportunities that can really provide young people with really great job prospects.” WUSF. WESH. WKMG. The University of South Florida has established a task force to try to increase enrollment and graduation rates for Hispanic students. If the task force can boost Hispanic enrollment from its current 22 percent of the school’s total to 25 percent, the school will qualify for additional federal funds. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: A recent study showed that enrollment in U.S. charter schools has grown by 240,000 students since the fall of 2019. That’s an increase of 7 percent, while enrollment in other schools declined by 3 percent. “We became a very popular option for a lot of parents, and what was really interesting to me was that you could see this pattern of where there was any capacity at all, parents maximized that opportunity and grabbed as many seats as they could,” said Debbie Veney, senior vice president of communications for the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: Absent some surge in fertility and/or immigration, it seems very likely that peak enrollment for America’s school districts lies in the past. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED.

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BY NextSteps staff