FSU loses lawsuit dismissal request, USF students end hunger strike, church school cancels Autism Awareness Week, and more

Around the state: A North Carolina judge denies Florida State University’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the sports conference it’s trying to leave, University of South Florida students end a two-week hunger strike but will continue to push school officials to divest holdings in companies that support Israel, a private religious school in Palm Beach cancels Autism Awareness Week activities after the pastor says the activities are “idolatry and demonic,” Duval school officials schedule a meeting to discuss how to get community feedback on a money-saving proposal to close some schools, high food prices and shrinking federal funds could end free meals for everyone at Pasco schools, and questions remain about food service for students at three Newberry public schools if they are converted to charter schools. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Cypress Bay High School and adjacent Falcon Cove Middle in Weston reopen today after a water main break left the schools without water Thursday, city and school district officials said Thursday afternoon. A boil-water notice is in effect at both schools, which will supply bottled water for students and staff. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN.

Orange: School district and Eatonville officials are trying to settle a lawsuit the town filed over control of a piece of property so they can make a joint effort to convince the state to locate a state black history museum on the site. Eight locations have made bids. The Florida Museum Black History Task Force will rank the bids and narrow the options to three or four finalists on April 19. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: A private church school near Lake Worth Beach recently canceled Autism Awareness Week after its pastor said the scheduled activities were “idolatry and demonic.” Trinity Christian Academy pastor Matt Baker emailed parents March 30 that the events encouraged students to prioritize other identities above their faith in Jesus. One of the activities was dress-up day, when students are encouraged to dress as something they love, adopt strange hairstyles and wear fun hats and tie-dye clothing. “If Jesus Christ led Trinity, would HE have an Autism Awareness Week? Of course not! Why? Because anything that exalts itself above the name of Christ should be brought down,” Baker wrote. Some parents called the remarks “disgraceful, disrespectful and ignorant,” and said they are considering withdrawing their children from the school. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: At a meeting April 16, school board members will discuss ways to get feedback from the public before moving forward with a money-saving plan that is expected to center on closing some schools. “We’ll look at a timeline and we’ll figure out exactly what those next steps are and how we want the community to be involved and how much we want the community to be involved,” said board chair Darryl Willie. Some of the schools that could make the closing list are scheduled for renovations, but soaring construction costs are projected to run nearly $2 billion more than the money raised by a voter-approved half-cent sales tax. Florida Times-Union. Atlantic Beach Elementary School is on a list of schools that could be closed, and some parents are starting to mobilize to try to save it. “It’s the heart of our community the little pink school. You take that away and whatever it’s replaced with won’t do it justice,” said Emily McCarthy, mother of a 1st- and 3rd-grader at Atlantic Beach Elementary. WTLV.

Pasco: Higher food prices and declining federal funding are threatening to put an end to the school district’s free meals program for all students. For now, school officials will cover the growing cafeteria deficits, but they warn that’s not a long-term solution. “If this snapshot continues we will not be able to continue it, because it will not be sustainable long term,” assistant superintendent Betsy Kuhn said this week. Meals have been free for all students since the pandemic. Tampa Bay Times.

Escambia: A gun was discovered Wednesday in a classroom for students with special need at C.A. Weis Elementary School in Pensacola. Deputies said the gun was brought to school by a child with a disability. It was recovered and no one was injured. The owner of the gun has been identified, and the investigation is continuing. WEAR. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: A cheerleading coach and another Lincoln High School employee have been fired for allegedly providing alcohol to minors during an out-of-town trip to a cheer competition. The employees were not named by district officials who made the announcement. Florida’s Department of Children and Families is also investigating. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV.

Alachua: One of the questions still unanswered in the bid to convert three public schools in the city of Newberry into charter schools is what would happen with the food service. District officials say all the equipment in the schools would be removed because it’s owned by the school system, and Newberry Education First would have to spend nearly $900,000 to replace it. All Newberry Elementary students now get free meals, but that also would end if it becomes a charter school. The charter group said its budget “contemplates working with the district” on food service. Teacher and student voting on the conversion begins today and continues through April 12. Gainesville Sun.

Colleges and universities: A North Carolina judge has denied Florida State University’s request to dismiss the lawsuit the Atlantic Coast Conference filed to uphold a contract that would penalize FSU $572 million for leaving the sports conference. FSU maintains it should be allowed to leave without penalty. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. A group of 18 University of South Florida students ended a two-week hunger strike on Wednesday, deciding to instead focus on getting USF to divest in companies with financial ties to Israel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Polytechnic University began construction this week on a $15 million engineering building that will include staff and faculty offices, research and development labs and meeting spaces. It’s projected to open in the fall of 2025. WTSP. Construction will begin this summer on a 305-bed dormitory at Stetson University in DeLand, and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2026. WFTV.

Schools of excellence: Florida’s chancellor of public schools, Paul Burns, announced last week that 783 schools across the state had been designated as 2022-2023 schools of excellence. Schools earn the designation by finishing in the 80th percentile or higher among schools in their grade grouping for at least two of the last three years. Florida Department of Education.

Lessons of the eclipse: Some schools are using Monday afternoon’s solar eclipse as a learning experience, and others are excusing student absences, moving afternoon activities indoors or postponing them to keep students safe. Here is information about the eclipse, and reports from some districts around the state. Alachua. Bay. Brevard. Duval. Escambia. St. Johns. Santa Rosa. Seminole. Volusia.

Opinions on schools: We lost our daughter to cyberbullying. Don’t let it happen to yours. Hunter and Cheryl Brown, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff