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Enrollment increase, Broward’s Parkland school tours ended, Lake bus driver’s history, Alachua rezoning questions, and more

Around the state: An influx of immigrant students leads to a modest enrollment increase in Miami-Dade schools, Broward school officials say tours of the Parkland school where 17 students and staff died in a 2018 shooting have ended because they’re disruptive and strain the district’s resources, a Lake County school bus driver who struck and killed a student almost two weeks ago has had other accidents this year, Alachua school board members have a lot of questions about a rezoning plan that is before the board for a vote today, Hernando County School Board members decide that an elementary school will remain open only to magnet students instead of also taking on zoned students, and a Broward charter school principal is one of nine U.S. educators to win a leadership award from the U.S. Department of Education. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School enrollment is up about 2,100 students this year, to 328,000, according to the latest count. District chief financial officer Ron Steiger said the number is somewhat surprising considering the rising cost of living that is pushing families out of the area and a new law that offers school vouchers to all Florida students. “It’s pretty incredible that we’re seeing growth in district schools, charter schools, and private schools,” he said. Up until last year, enrollment had been trending downward since the 2016-2017 school year. But an increase in the number of immigrant students has made up the difference, with 20,000 added last year and even more than that expected this year, Steiger said. WFOR.

Broward: Last weekend’s tour of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 students and staff were shot to death in 2018 will be the last, even though the building won’t be demolished until next summer. Superintendent Peter Licata made that decision, said district spokesman John Sullivan. “Every time there is a visit of the 1200 building, it does cause potential disruptions either to the learning environment or activities happening after school or on weekends,” Sullivan said. He added that the tours tax district resources, including overtime or compensatory time for security and other staff. Sun-Sentinel. Orange County School Board member Angie Gallo was among those touring the building Saturday, and said, “It was heart-wrenching. It was heartbreaking. It’s not something that I’ll ever forget. Being a mom, my heart just hurt.” Orlando Sentinel. Johna Giordano, principal of the Hollywood Academy of Arts & Science charter school, is one of nine U.S. school leaders chosen by the U.S. Department of Education to receive the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership in 2023. U.S. Department of Education.

Lee: A Fort Myers man whose son missed a lot of school traveling to play ice hockey decided to start the Florida Sports Virtual Academy to give those players more support in getting an education while training for their sport. Andrew Locantora’s school offers online learning and personal or online tutoring. It now has a “couple of dozen” students in Fort Myers and Deerfield Beach locations, and has plans to expand to Cape Coral and Clearwater. WINK.

Lake: The 78-year-old school bus driver who struck and killed a 17-year-old Lake Minneola High School as he biked to school two weeks ago has had other accidents this year, according to district records. In April, she knocked over an apartment community’s call box when she tried to make a U-turn. In August, she crashed into a car in the high school’s bus loop. And on Oct. 2, she struck and killed Sherman Vannoy as he rode in a crosswalk at the school. The driver has been on leave since then. WOFL.

Sarasota: A proposal to align school board district boundaries with the county commission’s is expected to be approved at today’s board meeting. The timing of the vote was scheduled to meet a 270-day deadline for district maps to be adopted prior to an upcoming election. Board members are required to be residents of the district they wish to represent, but they will continue to be elected countywide. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: Seventy-two percent of county residents who responded to a community survey have a negative perception of the quality of education in Escambia, according to the poll conducted annually by Quint and Rishy Studer since 2008. Only 20 percent thought the quality of education was excellent or good. While negative responses have outnumbered positive ones in every year of the survey, this past year had the lowest percentage of positive impressions. Claire Kirchharr, the quality of life director for the Pensacola Young Professionals, said the survey reflects “pretty glaring concerns.” Pensacola News Journal.

Alachua: An expansive school rezoning proposal got a final discussion at a school board workshop meeting Monday before today’s scheduled board vote. Plans have changed three times in the past two weeks, and it was evident at Monday’s meeting that board members still have unanswered questions. Board chair Tina Certain said she was “sorely disappointed” that Superintendent Shane Andrew still hasn’t offered details on potential savings, solutions to capacity and transportation issues, and how rezoning affects student diversity. “Right now, I’m not sure what the next step is,” she said. “How are we going to move forward?” Gainesville Sun. Main Street Daily News.

Hernando: School board members have decided that Chocachatti Elementary School will remain a magnet school that doesn’t have an attendance zone. A rezoning plan had called for it to take in some zoned students to ease overcrowding at other schools, but the plan was revised after parents complained that accepting zoned students would change the nature of the school. “Chocachatti is unique, and it should not be touched,” said board member Mark Johnson. Suncoast News.

Nassau: The school district has again been recognized by the state Department of Education as an academically high-performing one, with six of its schools being named as schools of excellence. Academically high-performing school districts are selected based on their district grade, school grades, class size compliance and financial audit reports. WJAX.

Highlands: A 40-acre patch of woods outside Sebring was transformed three years ago into a private school that also is a hybrid home-school for families who want part-time educational services. The Academy At The PARC started with 10 students and is now up to 60 in grades K-11. It’s nature-based and Waldorf-inspired with a rigorous core curriculum, an emphasis on entrepreneurship and a “practical arts” component where the students learn how to make everything from leather notebooks to bows and arrows. “It’s based on freedom,” said founder Colleen Paul-Hus. “How to provide for yourself. How to give to society. How to self-actualize.” reimaginED.

Colleges and universities: In the four years since a sinkhole closed the arts building on the Seminole State College’s Sanford/Lake Mary campus, the school has spent $1.5 million and still has no idea when the building might reopen. That will decided after a design reassessment determines how extensive the rebuild turns out to be. Orlando Sentinel. The University of West Florida is receiving a $1.6 million in federal grants over the next four years to support on-campus child-care programs. WEAR. The University of Florida is ranked No. 19 overall in the country in new ratings released by the personal finance company WalletHub. Florida State University was ranked 62nd, and the University of Miami 90th. Yahoo.

Opinions on schools: Is your state ready for the strain of the nation’s changing age demography and the effect it will have on schools? Your time to prepare is running out quickly. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Mixing and matching school options is appealing for parents, but it can be overwhelming. Charter schools can be the “bowl” that holds it all together. Christy Wolfe, The 74. We shouldn’t expect an unbundling of school to happen en masse or right away. Instead, we should expect greater unbundling in schooling relative to what we’ve had. That’s a step forward for customization, given that we didn’t have much unbundling before at all. Michael B. Horn, Forbes.

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BY NextSteps staff