Florida schools roundup: School arrests, back to school, marijuana and more

School arrests: The Orange County School District and county law enforcement officials agree on a plan to move away from arresting students for minor crimes, and instead will issue them civil citations. They think that will keep more students in school and out of the criminal justice system, which improves students’ odds of graduating. The district had a 6.4 per 1,000 students arrest rate in the 2015-2016 school year, which was less than Pinellas and Hillsborough counties but more than Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval. Orlando Sentinel.

Back to school: More Florida districts head back to school this week. Florida Times-Union. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach PostTampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Keynoter. Key West Citizen. Mold is found at Osceola Magnet School in Vero Beach and while the school opens as scheduled today, students will be moved around the avoid the rooms where the mold was found and will be released an hour and 40 minutes early every day while school officials await the results of air-quality tests. TCPalm. Martin County students who live within 2 miles of their school will be riding buses after all. Parents of 850 students had been notified that busing would end because of state rules. But the school board reversed that decision and the district will transport them when school opens Tuesday. School Board President Tina McSoley said busing will continue until the district can come up with a plan to help students who will be walking to arrive safely. TCPalm.

Medical marijuana: Florida school districts fear that they could be liable for helping students who are prescribed medical marijuana. Many are waiting for guidance from the state Department of Education. The Education Commission of the States, a group that studies education policy in the country, recently advised that schools could lose some federal funding if they help those students since the federal government enforces drug-free workplace policies. Sun-Sentinel.

New schools planned: A sales tax hike to help fund a high school in Destin could be headed to the Okaloosa County ballot. The school district and Destin Chamber of Commerce agreed on a plan to raise the sales tax by a half-cent. If the school board approves putting it on the ballot and it passes, Destin Middle School would be expanded into a 6th-12th grade school, with construction beginning in 2019. High school students from Destin now go to schools in Niceville and Fort Walton Beach. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR. WMBB. A K-8 charter school for 1,200 students is in the works for Sarasota. The Avant Garde Charter Academy would emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics in its curriculum. The plan will need city approval. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Community schools: A community school in the Parramore neighborhood in Orange County opens today. The Academic Center for Excellence includes grades K-8, and is the first new school in the neighborhood in 50 years. Community schools combine education, after-school programs, health and social services in a single location. WMFE. Heritage Trails Community School, formerly Pace Secondary, opened Friday in Tallahassee. The school, which serves children with behavioral and learning disabilities, took over the space once occupied by the Adult and Community Education program. Tallahassee Democrat.

Contract agreement: Monroe County teachers and the school board reach a tentative contract agreement on compensation, benefits and evaluations. Teachers will get the same pay adjustments they got last year, but will pay a small increase in health insurance premiums. Other school employees get a raise of 60 cents an hour. Keynoter.

District rezoning: About 1,700 Escambia County students will be rezoned next year when two new schools open and one closes. This is the final year for Woodham Middle School, and its 600 students will switch to other schools. The new schools, Beulah Middle and Kingsfield Elementary, will take in 790 and 600 students, respectively. The district is also considering  converting Lincoln Park Primary School from a K-3 school to K-5. Pensacola News Journal.

School impact fees: The Pasco County School Board will vote this week on increasing school impact fees. It’s expected to endorse a deal between the district and area homebuilders that would increase the fee on new construction by $2,300 on Jan. 1, with an additional $600 tacked on in each of the following two years. The bumps would hike the fee to $8,328 by 2020. School officials say they need the extra money to build new schools to accommodate enrollment growth. Gradebook.

Gender suit: A judge declines to issue an injunction against the St. Johns School Board over its bathroom access rules. Transgender student Drew Adams sued the board this summer, saying the school unlawfully denied him access to boys bathrooms and instead forced him to use gender-neutral facilities. Federal Judge Timothy J. Corrigan said a nonjury trial could be scheduled as early as December. St. Augustine Record.

H.B. 7069: Recently appointed Manatee County School Board member Scott Hopes says he’s been told by legislative leaders “that there is a willingness and intent to address any unintended consequences of the bill (H.B. 7069) during this upcoming session.” He says he thinks diplomacy is a better route to changing the law than the lawsuit many school districts plan to bring against the state. Bradenton Herald.

Bus driver removed: The Lee County School District removes an 83-year-old bus driver after a complaint from a parent who had been assured by the district last year that he would not continue driving. James Lee Barnes caused an accident with the woman’s son in May. A school official says the situation with Barnes had “fallen through the cracks” over the summer, but that he had been removed from driving “effective immediately.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Bus driver shortages: School districts in west-central Florida are taking different approaches to fight the chronic shortage of school bus drivers. Tampa Bay Times.

Concussion concerns: Some central Florida high school football coaches are changing the way they teach players to hit and tackle after a recent report on the effects of concussions on the brain. Orlando Sentinel.

Virtual school award: Florida Virtual School wins an SIIA CODiE award in Best Coding & Computational Thinking Solution category for its foundations of programming course. AVNation.

District app: Escambia and Sarasota county school districts launch new apps to keep parents informed about their children’s progress and school events. Pensacola News Journal. WFTS.

Appointment causes concern: The former principal of a Nassau County school where one teacher’s aide was fired and another suspended for abusing special education students has been named director of the school district’s Exceptional Student Education. The appointment of Misty Mathis has caused concern among some parents. “We accused her of allowing abuse to happen at her school on many occasions, and now she’s the director,” says parent Stephanie Smith. WJAX.

Personnel moves: Johnny Bush is named principal at Tampa’s Plant High School. He succeeds Rob Nelson, who ran the school for 10 years until being named an area principal coach. Tampa Bay Times. Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry is hired as an assistant principal at Holly Hill Junior High School, despite two instances of disciplinary action taken by the state against him in 2010 and 2011. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Notable deaths: Savannah Simons, an exceptional student education teacher at Inverness Middle School, died last week during a training session at the school. Grief counselors will be available at the school today. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teachers fined: Two Broward County teachers are fined and placed on probation after calling students of Middle Eastern descent “terrorists.” William Whalen, who resigned in 2015, was a math teacher at New River Middle School in Fort Lauderdale, and Nancy Victoria Dean is a social science teacher at Western High School in Davie. Each was fined $750 and put on a year’s probation by Florida’s Education Practices Commission. Miami Herald.

Janitor arrested: A janitor from Timbercrest Elementary School in Deltona is arrested and accused of the sexual battery on two young women. Neither is affiliated with the school. Police say George Cortes, 76, sexually abused the girls in 2014 and 2015. He works for a third party hired by the Volusia County School District. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Day-care worker arrested: An Apopka day-care teacher’s assistant is arrested and accused of striking a 4-year-old with a ruler. Police say Janet Gainer, 54, struck a child hard enough to leave a bruise. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Superintendent Heidi Maier has established a new normal for Marion County schools. Ocala Star-Banner. One way to feel good at the start of the new school year is to gain recognition as a Florida Healthy School District. Both Collier and Lee school districts were so honored this year. Naples Daily News. We are extremely proud of our students and staff for their accomplishments, but our focus on continuous improvement remains steadfast. Collier County Superintendent Kamela Patton, Naples Daily News. When Gov. Rick Scott leaves office next year, one of his legacies will be a more conservative brand of school leadership in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Zach Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A Collier County School Board member’s confusing vote on a textbook purchase provides a lesson in civics. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News. Our school district has made great progress, but we need the community’s support to continue it. Alachua County Superintendent Karen Clarke, Gainesville Sun. About 33 percent of Marion County children are not ready to enter kindergarten. Anita Winter, Ocala Star-Banner.

Student enrichment: A nonprofit and a pharmaceutical company join forces to remake a large part of Greco Middle School’s media center into a multicolored, multifunctional space to entice students into future careers in science, technology, engineering, art and math fields. Tampa Bay Times.