Charter schools rule in development, Duval board rejects HQ move, random school searches, and more

Around the state: A rule is being developed by the Florida Department of Education to carry out charter school laws, Duval school board members reject two proposals to move the district headquarters from its current riverside location in Jacksonville, Volusia’s school board gives preliminary approval to random searches of students for weapons, Orange schools change their policy on notifying parents when their children are absent, Archer city commissioners approve a resolution opposing the city of Newberry’s proposal to turn three public schools in the city into charter schools, and Lee school district officials were caught on camera criticizing the appearance of the teacher union president during a recent contract negotiation meeting. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: Parents will be notified when their children are absent from school at the start of the day and again at the end under a new district policy going into effect April 8. The change was prompted by the disappearance of 13-year-old Madeline Soto last month. Her mother wasn’t notified that the girl wasn’t in school until the end of the day. Madeline was later found dead. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH.

Duval: Two proposals to move the school district’s headquarters from the Southbank property on the St. Johns River were rejected Tuesday by the school board. One of the plans would have put the headquarters in the Florida Blue building, at a cost of $68 million over a 20-year lease. The other would have relocated the district offices to a new building in LaVilla built by the Jacksonville Transportation Agency, at a cost of $128 million over 20 years. Both would cost more than staying in the current building, and while the sale of the Southbank building would have generated about $10 million, the money could not be used to help pay the leases. WJAX.

Pinellas: A former worker at a Clearwater preschool has been arrested and accused of abusing children at the school. Police were called Feb. 14 after a Wee Care Preschool worker reported seeing Noel Michelle Savoy, 56, “handling children in a rough manner.” Savoy was fired, and now faces nine counts of child abuse involving five children, all of whom were about a year old. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Lee: School district negotiators recently had a hot mic moment when they mocked teachers union president Kevin Daly for his appearance during a livestream of Monday’s contract talks. “He looks like a slob every time he goes to a professional meeting,” said one district representative. A spokesperson for the district later said, “We aim to maintain a professional dialogue between the school district and the teachers union during negotiations at all times. These comments were made in what was intended to be a private caucus.” WINK. A paraprofessional at the Royal Palm Exceptional Center in Fort Myers has been arrested and accused of battery and disturbing the peace by interfering with a school function. Police said Torrie Jerger, 36, caused a disturbance at Harns Marsh Elementary School when she tried to pick up her daughter before dismissal. WINK.

Brevard: A year-round academic calendar for Challenger 7 Elementary School was approved Tuesday by the school board. The school is taking part in a state test of year-round schooling. Classes begin July 22. A two-week break is scheduled Sept. 25-Oct. 4, and another March 10-21. Classes end May 28. WFTV.

Volusia: A proposal to allow random searches in the school district was tentatively approved Tuesday by the school board. A final vote is scheduled April 9. A computer would randomly select a school and a classroom where a metal detector would be set up. “Random screening can act as a deterrent discouraging students from bringing weapons on campus,” said Patty Corr, the district’s chief operations officer. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. Construction has begun on the new Edith I. Starke Elementary in DeLand. Once construction is completed in the fall of 2025, the $36 million school will have space for 850 students. Daytona Beach News-Journal. One of the district’s alternative education programs, the Riverview Learning Center, is moving next fall from Daytona Beach to the Osceola Elementary School campus in Ormond Beach. District officials said the change is needed to add space for those in the secondary program. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

St. Lucie: Legacy High School was the name chosen Tuesday by the school board for the new school being built in Tradition. Construction of the $80 million, 2,000-student high school began last June. It’s expected to open August 2025. A committee had narrowed the 37 name suggestions to three – Legacy, Sunset Ridge High School and Crosstown High School – and the board unanimously voted for Legacy. TCPalm. WPTV.

Alachua: Archer city commissioners have approved a resolution opposed the city of Newberry’s plan to turn three public schools in the city into charter schools. The resolution “opposes the conversion of Newberry Elementary School, Oak View Middle School and Newberry High School into non-traditional public charter schools and any attempt to redraw school zones that would exclude neighboring communities.” Gainesville Sun. WCJB. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials are investigating “numerous” Santa Fe High School employees for “crimes against children,” according to a letter sent by a school vendor to the state. No details of the alleged crimes have been released. Main Street Daily News.

Bay: A teacher at Surfside Middle School in Panama City Beach has been suspended by the school board after he was accused of sexual harassment and insubordination. Superintendent Mark McQueen is recommending that Patrick Nation be fired. Nation will have the option to appeal if he is fired. WJHG.

Charlotte: School board member Kim Amontree said some teachers are sharing websites with students that are critical of Gov. Ron DeSantis and promote Black Lives Matter. “I do not think we should have materials from organizations that are promoting these various partisan political views,” she said. She’s proposing to update a district policy regarding political materials that the board can consider at an April meeting. She said the current policy has remain unchanged for 10 years. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: A planned University of Florida graduate center in Jacksonville has been granted another $75 million in this year’s state budget. That brings the amount of money pledged from the state, city and private donors at $250 million. Florida Times-Union. Legislators also designated $40.2 million to the University of North Florida for a student support and academic building, and $35 million for remodeling the historic Hotel Ponce de Leon on the campus of Flagler College in St. Augustine. Florida Times-Union. A Jacksonville University senior basketball player is trying to develop more comfortable and hygienic underwear for female athletes. Emmy James’ idea won a recent college pitch contest, and now she’s working on producing a product. Florida Times-Union.

Rule for charters: A rule is being developed by the Florida Department of Education to carry out charter school laws passed by the 2023 Legislature and signed into law by Gov.  DeSantis. It would specify the role of charter school sponsors, which can include school districts, state colleges and universities, the creation of a “standard monitoring tool” for annual reviews of charters, and the circumstances that can result in the termination of a charter school contract. A workshop meeting to discuss the proposed rule is scheduled March 26. News Service of Florida.

Suit settlement Q&A: What the settlement between the state and a group suing over the Parental Rights in Education law now allows – and still prohibits – in the classroom. Sun-Sentinel.

Around the nation: More than 11 percent of U.S. high school seniors have used the hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids Delta-8 THC, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study also showed that the highest rates of usage were in the South and Midwest, and that 91 percent of the Delta-8 THC were also users of marijuana. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Travel outside of this brainwashed state, talk to people, and realize that all the political reshaping of a sacred realm that belongs only to educators has diminished the value of a Florida education. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. There’s no way to predict what Florida will look like when today’s young learners are tomorrow’s economic leaders. Providing all of Florida’s students with an education that emphasizes future-readiness, such as artificial intelligence, multilingualism, critical thinking skills and cross-cultural engagement, ensures they will achieve success and continue to shine light on the Sunshine State. Dan Sweeney, Sun-Sentinel. It is almost certain that human instructors will harness AI to improve their instruction. But until human relationships become unimportant in student learning – and that will never happen – the human instructor will play the leading role in the classroom. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The state has declared war on campus diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and athletes are caught in the middle. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff