Diaz now says AP course fine as-is, first day of school for most, Diaz cancels town hall appearance, bats move into Tampa school and more

Diaz clears AP course: Late Wednesday, as most districts prepared to open schools today, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sent a memo to superintendents telling them the College Board’s Advanced Placement psychology course had been reviewed and “can be taught consistent with Florida law,” even with its inclusion of discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity. Diaz said he thought he had been clear last week when he said the course could be taught “in its entirety in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate.” But the addition of the age-appropriate phrase muddled the issue for many superintendents who decided not to take the chance of violating state laws about sexual and gender instruction in classes and started making plans to use alternate materials. Now, some of them say, it’s too late to change back to the AP course. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Diaz has backed out of attending a town hall meeting in Miami Gardens tonight to discuss the state’s black history curriculum standards. Diaz had agreed to attend, but said he notified the group last week that he “will be visiting schools throughout the state to welcome back students, parents and teachers for the first day of school.” Town hall organizers called his withdrawal a “coward move,” but the meeting will continue as planned. Miami Herald. Florida Politics. WFOR. WPLG.

School year’s Day 1: Sixty-one of the state’s 67 school districts open their doors to students today. Only Polk (first day is Friday), Duval, Volusia and Hernando (all Aug. 14), Miami-Dade (Aug. 17) and Broward (Aug. 21) begin later. Classes resume with new state laws in place that restrict instruction on certain topics, ongoing confusion over last-minute declarations about whether an Advanced Placement psychology course can be offered because of those new laws, questions about what books can remain in school libraries and classrooms, the potential addition of instructional material from an organization founded by a conservative radio show host, a recent upsurge in the number of COVID-19 cases being reported, and a heat wave across much of the state. Tampa Bay Times. WLRN. News Service of Florida. WTSP. Lakeland Now. Florida Phoenix. New York Times. Axios. Miami New Times. CNN. Florida Department of Education.

Around the state: Several of the state’s larger school districts decide to offer students the College Board AP psychology class with no changes, Duval’s school board sets a timeline for choosing a new superintendent, Orange County school officials e-mail parents to be sure their guns are safely secured and away from children, at least one Escambia County school library posts a signing saying it’s closed because of new state laws, Suwannee County school officials decide to adopt later school start times this year instead of waiting until they’re required in 2026, and bats living inside a Hillsborough County elementary school won’t be removed before students arrive today. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

South Florida: All three of the large south Florida schools districts will offer the College Board’s AP psychology class to students this year. Miami-Dade Superintendent Jose Dotres said Wednesday that the course would be presented in its entirety, including instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. Broward officials said the district will treat the course as an elective, and will require parents to sign a consent form. Palm Beach County Superintendent Michael Burke, who said earlier this week the course would not be offered because he thought teachers risked arrest if they taught it, reversed course after meeting with Florida K-12 education chancellor Paul Burns on Tuesday and the College Board on Wednesday. He said teachers will be “careful” to teach the gender identity and sexuality portion in an age-appropriate way for the 1,400 juniors and seniors who will be taking the class. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WSVN. WTVJ. WPEC. WPLG. All Miami-Dade public school students will receive free breakfasts and lunches again this school year, the district recently announced. WSVN. WFOR.

Hillsborough: Students and bats will coexist when a Tampa elementary school opens today. In the midst of mating season, the bats moved into the second floor rafters at Northwest Elementary about two weeks ago. Principal Bryan Quigley said the invasion “necessitated us to temporarily move some classrooms and close some hallways.” All Creatures Wildlife Control owner Dustin Hooper said the bats can’t be removed until mating season ends Aug. 15. “It’s okay because the kids are going to the school during the day,” he said. “The bats aren’t going to come out during the day. By the time the kids are at schools the bats are still in their roost, so I wouldn’t worry about it.” WTVT.

Orange: District officials sent an e-mail to parents Wednesday night stressing that “safely storing firearms is necessary to protect our children from the disastrous consequences of accessibility.” School board vice chair Angie Gallo said the idea is to make sure “our children are safe. … We want them (families) to know if they have a firearm at home to please safely store and lock them up.” State law requires “loaded forearms in a home (to) be stored in a locked box or container or secured with a trigger lock if the owner reasonably knows that a child under the age of 16 can access the firearm.” WKMG.

Duval: The search for a new superintendent starts next week with an online community survey, then a series of community forums later this month. The job will be posted in September, and semifinalists will be identified in October. Three or four finalists will be interviewed, and a new superintendent is expected to be chosen at the Nov. 21 school board meeting. “We’re staying on this timeline,” said board chair Kelly Coker. “The only thing that could interfere with it is (if) the caliber of candidate isn’t what we’re looking for. But at this point, that’s the timeline, and we’re hopeful we’re going to draw really strong applicants.” WJXT. WJAX.

Brevard: Superintendent Mark Rendell said the district will offer students alternatives to the College Board’s AP psychology course, and specifically mentioned the Cambridge and International Baccalaureate psychology courses. “The only hurdles we have to overcome right now is making sure we have the instructional materials for those teachers,” he said. Rendell rejected the AP course because, he said, teachers told him it could not be taught without breaking the state law governing instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity and the College Board saying it would not offer students college credit if material on those topics is not included. Florida Today.

Volusia: School board members decided to ask the Florida Department of Education this week for permission to demolish and rebuild Enterprise and Louise S. McInnis elementary schools because they’re “in dire need of replacement.” State approval is needed to take down buildings that aren’t at least 50 years old or “the condition of the building is not conducive to utilize it.” State approval would give the district the option to demolish one or more of the schools’ buildings or do full renovations. If the state doesn’t approve, the district will further examine the buildings’ conditions to try to prove they are unsuitable or buy land to build a new school. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee, Sarasota: Schools open today for an estimated 52,000 Manatee County students and 49,000 in Sarasota County. Both are under new leadership, with superintendents Jason Wysong in Manatee and Terry Connor in Sarasota. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: Confusion continues over what books may and may not be placed in school libraries, with one district school posting a signing saying its library is closed indefinitely to comply with new state laws on “inappropriate” material. The state has argued in a Lake County court fight over the book And Tango Makes Three that book restrictions don’t apply to library books. WEAR.

Leon: The district’s new book approval process, adopted this week after school board approval, gives parents two options: They can allow the child access to all books in the classroom and libraries, or require the child to receive permission before accessing any books. “The goal here is to protect all parents,” Superintendent Rocky Hanna said. “We couldn’t think of a better system.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Hernando: A teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School in Brooksville has been arrested and accused of sending inappropriate messages to a 14-year-old student. Deputies said George Beall, 33, began sending the messages through texts, Snapchat and PlayStation when he taught at Powell Middle School, which the student attended. Beall has been charged with transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and placed on administrative leave. WFTS.

Charlotte: The school district has decided to offer the AP psychology course to its students this year. “Presently, Charlotte High School, Port Charlotte High School and Charlotte Virtual School include the course as one of many course options,” said Cheryl Edwards, assistant superintendent of learning. “The course will be taught in its entirety in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate.” Charlotte Sun.

Citrus: Rachel Montgomery has been named the school district’s supervisor of district threat management. She’s a 16-year veteran who had been the leader of the behavioral health unit at the sheriff’s office and also worked in the sheriff’s victim advocate and domestic violence programs. Citrus County Chronicle.

Suwannee: School start time changes required in state law by July 2026 are being made this year by the school district. The law prohibits middle schools from starting before 8 a.m. and high schools before 8:30 a.m. Starting today, the four elementary schools begin their day from 8:20 to 8:30, and the middle and high schools at 8:30. “We went ahead and moved forward so that we can go ahead and deal with the adjustments,” said Superintendent Ted Roush. “Deal with bus schedule changes and get our parents and our students accustomed to the new schedule.” WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton has received an $11.5 million grant from Boca Raton philanthropists Ann and John Wood to advance research into the disease amyloidosis, which causes a buildup of proteins that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias or in brain bleeds that can lead to a stroke. Palm Beach Post. Broward College has received a $3 million federal grant to help expand broadband access in the communities it serves. WLRN. Daytona State College’s teacher prep program for reading recently received an “A” grade from the National Council on Teacher Quality. It’s the only school in the state college system to win that designation. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Education podcasts: Nina Rees, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, talks with Step Up For Students senior writer Lisa Buie about a recent study showing that over time, charter schools outperformed district-run schools in their communities, Oklahoma’s recent approval of the nation’s first religious charter school, and more. reimaginED.

Around the nation: Some U.S. college students are receiving compensation in settlements in disputes with colleges and universities over fees the students paid during the pandemic for services they never received because campuses were closed. Class-action lawsuits are still in litigation, including in Florida, and the results have “been a mixed bag,” according to attorney Jeffrey Ostrow, who represented students in a suit against Barry University of Miami. The sides eventually settled when Barry agreed to set up a $2.4 million compensation fund for students. Florida Phoenix. A study of charter schools across 18 major cities and 16 states shows they receive, on average, 30 percent less in funding than traditional public schools. The report by the University of Arkansas’ School Choice Demonstration Project found that the disparity is due to inequitable local funding. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: It is difficult as a high school student to feel good when the people who are supposed to know better are putting politics above education. Instead of attempting to shield us from content that will inevitably be brought to light in life, the state should work to create better regulations that could help our education instead of harming it. Giselle Matias, Palm Beach Post. Is state Rep. Carolina Amesty’s Central Christian University a sign of the deep contempt that Florida society has for educators? Or is it simply the most convenient vehicle for corruption? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Everyone says young people are the future. This platitude is tired and kind of T-shirty, but it’s also true. If you weren’t so powerful, why would adults go after your very education? If they’re talking about you but not to you, it’s time to change that. Make yourself heard, and you just might get something done. Stephanie Hayes, Tampa Bay Times.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff