Eight NW Florida school districts closed today over weather, site of shooting being demolished, and more

Around the state: Leon County’s school district and seven others in northwest Florida are closed today because of a threat of severe weather in the area, the building at a Broward high school where 17 students and employees were gunned down in 2018 will be demolished in mid-June, Broward’s superintendent introduces a new plan to save money and reverse declining student enrollment, school board members in Manatee and Hernando counties say they aren’t running for re-election, Newberry city commissioners vote to have city employees help a nonprofit group apply to the state to convert Newberry Elementary into a charter school, and a senior prank at a Volusia County high school will mean disciplinary action for the culprits. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: The Parkland school building where 17 students and employees were gunned down and 17 others wounded in 2018 will be demolished in mid-June, school officials recently confirmed. The 1200 Building on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus will be taken down in pieces. What will go on the site has yet to be determined. “It’s really important whatever we put in that space reminds us of those amazing lives,” said school board member Debbi Hixon, whose husband Chris, the school’s wrestling coach and athletic director, was killed in the attack. “I want it to be a place where people remember to live life well.” Sun Sentinel. Superintendent Howard Hepburn’s latest proposal to save money and address declining enrollment would reconfigure four schools in an effort to win back students who have opted for charter, private or home school options and boost revenues from the state by about $7 million. Enrollment is down by about 54,000 students. The school board will discuss the plan at today’s meeting. Sun Sentinel.

Duval: Dozens of members of the community met the two finalists for the superintendent’s job at a gathering Monday at EverBank Stadium. In interviews, Christopher Bernier and Daniel Smith talked about how they would handle certain controversial issues, and about proposed school closures. Those interviews continue today. Board members are expected to choose a new superintendent May 23. WJXT. WTLV. WJAX. Jacksonville Today.

Brevard: School district officials name their 2024 top scholars from this year’s high school graduating class. Florida Today.

Volusia: Parts of DeLand High School were wrapped with toilet paper and spray-painted early Monday morning in what school officials are calling a “senior prank” that went too far. No permanent damage was reported. The students involved will be disciplined. WKMG. WFTV.

Manatee: District 3 school board member Mary Foreman said she is stepping down after one term. The only candidate for the seat so far is former board member Charlie Kennedy, who was a board member from 2014 to 2022 and is currently a physical education teacher at Daughtrey Elementary in Bradenton. Bradenton Herald.

Marion: A principal at a private school in Ocala was arrested Saturday and accused of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment of a child under 13 years of age. Deputies said Dontay Akeem Prophet, 33, the principal at Destiny Leadership Academy, put a student in a choke hold, hit him with a cable, twisted his ankle, slapped him in the face and prevented him from leaving a classroom for over 40 minutes. In 2019, while working for a Marion County district elementary school, Prophet was placed on leave after being accused of touching a student sexually. He later resigned. In 2023, he was arrested on a probation violation for allegedly attempting to interfere with the custody of a child. Ocala Star Banner. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. WCJB.

Escambia: Construction has begun on the Mother Clelia Morning Star High School for students with special needs in Pensacola. Construction is expected to be completed by Aug. 1. The school, which is part of the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, is now housed in two modular buildings. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon, northwest Florida: Schools in Leon, Franklin, Jefferson, Gadsden, Gulf, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla counties are closed today because of the potential of severe weather moving through the area. Lively Technical College and Florida A&M University are also closed today, with FAMU holding classes remotely the rest of this week. Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna called the barrage of damaging storms, which included at least three tornadoes Friday, “unprecedented” in his 36 years of working in the school district and 60 years of living in the area. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WCTV. WMBB. Florida Department of Education.

Okaloosa: The first of the district’s six high school graduations is Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Laurel Hill School, and the last is Fort Walton Beach High School’s on Friday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. Attendance is free, and the ceremonies will be livestreamed on YouTube. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: Newberry city commissioners voted Monday to have city employees help the nonprofit Education First for Newberry apply to the state Charter Review Commission to convert Newberry Elementary into a charter school. The result of the vote on the conversion is being disputed. Pro-conversion advocates say teachers at Newberry Elementary approved the change, but school district officials said they failed by one vote. If the application is approved by the state, the conversion would take place in August 2025. Mainstreet Daily News. WCJB.

Hernando: District 2 school board member Linda Prescott recently announced she is not running for a third term. She said she had promised to serve only two years, and plans to retire after 55 years in education. There are two candidates for the seat: Kayce Michelle Hawkins and Jennifer A. Sullivan. Suncoast News.

Flagler: A swim team club has submitted a proposal to the school board to take over the district-owned Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club to run it as a business. “By leasing the facilities at Belle Terre, we aim to generate revenue streams that will cover operational costs and contribute to the financial sustainability of the club. This will alleviate the burden on Flagler County schools and ensure the long-term viability of Belle Terre,” according to the plan from Flagler Fluid, which has used Belle Terre for practices and meets since 2001. In March, the school board decided to end access for students and to the public. Flagler Live.

Gilchrist: A former Bell Elementary School teacher was found guilty by a jury last week of capital sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under 12 by a person over 18 years of age. Deputies said William Charles Carawan, 33, sexually battered at least four victims between 2019 and 2022. He was arrested May 20, 2022. Sentencing is scheduled July 30. Mainstreet Daily News.

Colleges and universities: Norm Carlson, the sports information director at the University of Florida from 1963 until 2002, died last week at the age of 90. Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: This is an exceptionally strong class of college students this year: seasoned by catastrophe, emotionally sturdy and knowledgeable, ready for the workplace, medical or law school, graduate school, or whatever comes next. R. Bruce Anderson, Lakeland Ledger. Gun-free zones on Florida’s university and college campuses should be eliminated to empower students with their constitutional rights. Luis Valdes, Sun Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff

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