Florida schools roundup: A wave from Puerto Rico, recognition cash and more

Preparing for a wave: Five legislators are urging Florida education officials to relax their rules so schools can accommodate the expected influx of students who are fleeing the damage to Puerto Rico from Hurricane Irma. In a letter to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, lawmakers are asking that the state make additional funding available to schools that enroll those displaced students, to exempt those schools from meeting the provisions of the constitutionally required class sizes, to delay the annual student head count that is traditionally taken in October, and to waive immunization and birth certificate requirements for early education enrollment. “It is extremely important for Florida to be prepared for a large number of evacuees from Puerto Rico,” said state Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs. “So many Puerto Rican families have literally lost everything, and we must stand ready to do everything possible to help their children transition as seamlessly as possible to a new school and learning environment.” Miami Herald. WLRNOrlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Daily Commercial. WFSU. The devastation in Puerto Rico has a personal connection for the Ocala Preparatory School in Marion County. redefinED.

Recognition funds: The Florida Department of Education is handing out $129 million in school recognition funds this week. Schools can use the money for employee bonuses, hire temporary staff or buy equipment and supplies. If schools can’t come to an agreement on how to use the money, it gets divided among current teachers. Gradebook.

Homeless students: A new study says 72,000 Florida students were considered homeless in the 2015-2016 school year. Chief causes are the recession and more training for teachers to identify homeless students, according to the study by the University of Florida and Miami Homes for All. WMFE.

A district’s future: Duval County School Board members informally agree to make strategic plans for the next three years, both to comply with state requirements and to allow the next superintendent to help shape those plans. Most members believe the district must become STEM-focused to prepare students for a more technology-centered future. Duval has been looking for a superintendent since May, when Nikolai Vitti left to oversee Detroit’s schools. Florida Times-Union.

Charter doesn’t apply: The Florida Charter Educational Foundation misses the deadline to file an application to build a 1,145-student charter school in Alachua County. The group, backed by the for-profit charter giant Charter Schools USA, had a Monday deadline to apply in order to open a school next year. The proposal had drawn opposition from a political action committee, Parents Against Corporate Takeovers. Gainesville Sun.

Anthem, pledge protests: The Pasco County School District’s statement on dealing with students who choose not to recite the pledge of allegiance draws a strong reaction from parents and the community. Gradebook. Manatee County students plan to protest the school district’s Sept. 26 memo to athletic directors stating that athletes must stand during the national anthem at sporting events. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent’s review: As Lee County School Superintendent Greg Adkins nears his second anniversary on the job, school board members will formally review his performance. Most of the board members give Adkins high marks, with Jane Kuckel writing: “We need only to look back over the most previous superintendents who not only could not maintain the status quo, let alone raise the bar, to know how far he has come in a short period of time.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Special election: Sarasota County School Board members continue to debate when to hold a vote to extend a local-option property tax for schools, which is set for March. Two board members want the measure on a general election ballot, and the county’s legislative delegation agreed in a letter sent to the board last weekend. Holding the election in November saves money and assures a wider turnout, they argue. Proponents of the March election say the measure has a better chance of passing when not competing with other races. The board is scheduled to vote on the language of the measure today. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School building hotel: The IMG Academy has begun to build a 150-room hotel in Manatee County. The five-story hotel is expected to open in the fall of 2018 to serve the athletic training institution’s teams, coaches, athletes, staff and clients and other visitors. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher of the year: Seventy-one teachers are nominated for the Volusia County teacher of the year award. The winner will be announced Jan. 12. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Ex-dean found guilty: A former dean of a Polk County is found guilty of failing to report child abuse. Courtney Michael Stanley, 36, waited more than 24 hours to pass along a student’s 2016 report of sexual abuse by a bus driver at Horizons Elementary School. Sentencing is Nov. 16, and Stanley faces up to five years in prison. Lakeland Ledger.

Students’ threats: A 14-year-old boy is arrested for threatening to kill two people with a machete at Zephyrhills High School. The boy made the threat over Snapchat, but told deputies it was a joke. Tampa Bay Times. Associated Press. A student faces school discipline and possible criminal charges after posting a threat against Boca Raton High School on Instagram. Sun-Sentinel.

Student attacked: A 15-year-old Blake High School student is stabbed in the hand by a man who tried to grab her as she walked to school, Tampa police say. The girl escaped by spraying the man with tear gas. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Student enrichment: Donors around the nation and state are sending aid to schools in Lee County to help hurricane victims. Fort Myers News-Press. Two Marion County schools, Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary and Madison Street Academy, are named blue ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Ocala Star-Banner. Four Alachua County middle-schoolers are among 300 U.S. semifinalists in the Broadcom MASTERS competition for STEM projects. Gainesville Sun.