Florida schools roundup: School transportation, textbooks and more

Bill for school buses: A bill that would make more Florida students eligible for transportation to school gets the approval of the Senate Education Committee. The proposal would allow students who live 1.5 miles from school – instead of the current standard of 2 miles – to be eligible for busing, redefine hazardous walking routes as four-lane roads instead of six-lane ones, and provide busing to all students instead of just those in K-6. The changes could cost the state $58 million and local districts $100 million, according to a staff analysis. Gradebook. News Service of Florida.

Textbook adoption bill: The Senate Education Committee approves a bill creating a process for the public to comment on textbooks and instructional materials and recommend them for adoption. Right now the education commissioner approves materials from a list put together by state instructional materials reviewers. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, says this bill is “simply an opportunity for the citizens to have a voice.” The House version of the bill would require the Florida Board of Education to allow public comment on materials at any meeting where they’re up for adoption. Politico Florida.

District investigation: A grand jury has been convened to hear “evidence of all aspects of the (Okaloosa County) school district that have become public issues,” according to state attorney Bill Eddins. An elementary teacher has been charged with child abuse of a special-needs student, and three other district employees have been charged with failure to report child abuse. But Eddins says the grand jury will hear testimony that goes beyond the child abuse investigation and the district’s record on disciplining employees. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Teacher honored: Jason Lancy, an 8th-grade math teacher at Windy Hill Middle School in Clermont, is chosen as the Lake County School District’s teacher of the year. Orlando Sentinel.

Time change bill: A bill that would keep most of Florida on Daylight Saving Time year-round is approved by a Senate committee. The bill removed a provision that called for the whole state to be in the Eastern time zone after northwest Florida residents said they wanted to stay in the Central zone. Those residents were concerned about time differences with people living in neighboring Alabama, and how the change would alter the amount of daylight before school, says Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. News Service of Florida.

Teacher protest: Orange County teachers are planning a one-week protest about their working conditions and low morale. Union president Wendy Doromal says she hopes the protest, during which teachers will not work beyond the hours called for in their contract, will catch the attention of school officials. Teachers will also hold a rally before today’s school board meeting. WKMG.

Displaced students: Five months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, students who fled the island to enroll in Florida schools and those schools are continuing to adjust to the upheaval the storm brought. Almost 11,500 Puerto Ricans now attend Florida schools, and many of the districts they attend have hired displaced teachers and are reconfiguring classrooms to make the students welcome. Education Week.

Inclusion message: Four Boca Raton High students’ idea to start a lunch club to eat with lonely students is reaching a worldwide audience this week. The movement is part of a two-minute commercial by Mass Mutual that’s airing during the Winter Olympics. The ad weaves the “We Dine Together” lunch group story and five others with the song I’ll Stand By You, and is reaching an audience of more than 100 million. Sun-Sentinel.

Board members upset: Sarasota County School Board members express dismay over the timing of the letter Superintendent Todd Bowden sent board member Shirley Brown accusing her of making offensive sexual remarks to him during a phone call. Next month, voters will be asked to end a 1-mill property tax that generates about $55 million a year. “As I said last September when we started looking at this referendum, we didn’t need any bad news, and this is bad news,” says board vice chairwoman Jane Goodwin. “So it’s never a good thing to come out and it’s never a good time to come out.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Differing concerns: A new poll by the University of North Florida shows that Democrats and independents think education in the most important problem the state is facing, while Republicans call crime the most pressing issue. Florida Politics.

School alerts: Parents of Clay County charter school students did not get a call alerting them to threats made against schools around the county and country last week. Clay County School District officials say charter schools are not on what district’s automated system, an oversight they will correct. WJXT.

Science instruction: The Lake County School District is opening access to the Health Sciences Collegiate Academy’s science-oriented curriculum to all the county’s high schools. Right now only students at East Ridge, South Lake and Lake Minneola high schools and the private Montverde Academy can take part in the four-year program that culminates with a high school diploma and an associate in arts degree. Orlando Sentinel.

Studying slavery: States are “timid” about teaching slavery in K-12 schools, according to a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group studied 15 states, including Florida, and found that teachers tend to avoid slavery and gloss over the harsh realities of it when they do address the topic. Florida Times-Union.

School rezoning: The Pasco County School District posts four proposed school rezoning maps for the west side of the county and are seeking comment from residents. The district’s previous rezoning plan was voided recently by a judge who said the committee making the recommendation had conducted some business in private. Superintendent Kurt Browning expects to have a new rezoning recommendation ready for the school board to consider by March 16. Gradebook.

Debating school tax boost: Proponents and opponents debate the merits of the proposed property tax hike for Manatee County schools at a community forum. The election to increase the tax by 1 mill is March 20. Those arguing for the tax say it’s needed to retain teachers who are leaving for nearby districts that pay significantly more. Opponents say the district has mismanaged the money it gets now, and giving it more cannot be justified. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School restorations: Parents of students who used to attend Lee Elementary School in Tampa are lobbying the city council to provide protection for the school, which was seriously damaged by a fire last September. One of the leaders, Taryn Sabia, warned that “there has been little action to physically protect this historically significant structure from further damage and demolition by neglect.” District officials are preparing a response to the proposed settlement offered by its insurance company. Gradebook. Volunteers are trying to raise $2 million to restore the auditorium at the historic Jupiter School, which has been empty for about 15 years. Palm Beach Post.

School board elections: Polk County School Board member Kay Fields will stand for re-election to a fifth term to the District 5 seat. She has two challengers: Terry Clark and Jennifer Sabin. Lakeland Ledger. Citrus County School Board member Linda Powers says she is running for a fourth term. She represents District 5. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher accused of slap: A Duval County teacher is reassigned after being accused of slapping a 10-year-old student in the head at Sheffield Elementary School in Oceanway. The school district and the Florida Department of Children and Families are investigating. WJAX.

School bus crashes: There were 77 crashes last year involving school buses in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties in 2016, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: The problem isn’t that a Miami Catholic school would fire a gay teacher. The problem is the parents who continue propping up an institution that promotes bigotry and then complain when the leaders act Catholic. Hemant Mehta, Patheos. School choice and cultural pressure are better than mandates from the government in persuading schools to prioritize teacher quality over church doctrine. Scott Shackford, Reason.

Student enrichment: Sidhika Balachandar, a senior at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, is selected as one of 40 finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a national science and math competition scheduled March 8-14 in Washington, D.C. Gainesville Sun. The Havana Magnet School, a preK-8 grade school in Gadsden County, is one of two Florida schools named as 2017 National Title I Distinguished Schools. It’s the first time a Gadsden school has been chosen. WCTV.

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BY NextSteps staff