Florida schools roundup: Hurricane, teacher pay, A/C problems and more

Hurricane Michael: Hurricane Michael has claimed at least seven lives in the United States, and the first daylight look at areas hit show “unimaginable destruction,” according to Gov. Rick Scott. Mexico Beach and Panama City in Bay County were among the hardest hit. “So many lives have been changed forever,” says Scott. “So many families have lost everything.” Schools in at least nine Florida counties are closed again today. Bay County School Superintendent Bill Husfelt tweeted that he had little access to communications, but that “we will assess the damage & come up with a plan for reopening school soon.” Associated Press. News Service of Florida. ReutersFlorida Department of Education. Tallahassee DemocratUSA Today. Panama City News Herald. Associated PressTampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. WFSUWLRN. Education Week. Past disasters offer lessons for schools to get back online quickly. Education Week.

Contract impasse: The Volusia County School District declares an impasse in contract negotiations with the teachers union. It’s the third time in the past four years that an impasse has been declared. The two biggest issues are pay and the length of the elementary school day. The district was willing to offer 2.5 percent raises for each of the next three years, and the union agreed to extend the school day next year. But the raises depend on state funding, and approval of the length of the day hinges on the pay raises. A resolution now falls to the school board. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher pay proposal: State Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, says he will file a bill in the Legislature setting $50,000 a year as a minimum salary for teachers. Rader has filed such a bill during the last three sessions, and it has never advanced in the Republican-controlled Legislature. But if Democrat Andrew Gillum is elected governor Nov. 6, Rader says “this bill passes.” The 60-day legislative session begins March 5. Gradebook.

Worsening A/C problems: The number of problems with air-conditioning systems in Palm Beach County schools is accelerating, according to the district’s maintenance records. Two years ago, voters approved an increase in the county sales tax to fix such problems. But $20 million worth of air-conditioning repairs scheduled during the 2017-2018 school year didn’t get done because of revised priorities and a slow competitive bidding process. In the first five weeks of classes, there have been 2,172 reports of air-conditioners not working correctly, which is a 6 percent increase over the previous year. Palm Beach Post.

School security: Palm Beach County school officials give an update at a community meeting on progress the district has made in upgrading security at schools. The district now has an officer in each of its 185 public schools, and has added or upgraded single points of entry, fences, card readers, security cameras and door locks, among other things. Sun-Sentinel.

Retention and dropouts: Retaining struggling 3rd-graders has had little impact on high school graduation rates, according to recent studies in Florida and two other states, but holding back middle-schoolers is likely to increase dropout rates. Chalkbeat.

Selling school property: Hillsborough County School Board members will consider a proposal to sell four surplus parcels of land. Officials hope to raise almost $3 million from the sales. The board vote is Tuesday. Gradebook.

Education podcasts: School leaders continue to express confusion about how they’re supposed to meet two state mandates: how often to run active-shooter drills, and how to comply with the state’s class-size limits. Gradebook.

Educator honored: Dale Toney, an instructor for the Robotics, Automation and Design program at Belleview High School in Marion County, is one of 10 U.S. teachers to win grand prizes in the Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator Awards presented to those who are “using the classroom to inspire innovation, creativity, the problem-solving and critical thinking among their students.” He was the only Florida teacher chosen. FLATE Focus.

School board elections: Previewing the race for the District 3 seat on the Marion County School Board. Ocala Star-Banner.

Cooling technology: Football players at Jacksonville’s Lee High School receive new shoulder pads that incorporate cooling technology. The pads were donated by the Zachary Polsenberg Heat Severity Charity. Polsenberg was a Fort Myers High School football player who died of heat stroke in 2017. WJAX.

Accidents with injuries: Two Atlantic High School seniors are hospitalized in an accident in front of the high school around 7 a.m. Thursday. Police are investigating. Palm Beach Post. Four Pinellas County students were taken to a hospital after the school bus they were in ran into the back of a semi-trailer truck stopped at a red light. Troopers say the injuries were minor. The school bus driver, 67-year-old Bernard Lee Gant, was cited for careless driving and has resigned. It was his 11th accident in 24 years driving buses for the district. Tampa Bay Times.

Schools evacuated: Haines City High School was evacuated Thursday after an ammonia leak at the nearby Sun Orchard juice plant. No students were injured, but six plant workers were taken to a hospital for treatment. Lakeland Ledger. Students at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville sat outside in the sun for most of the school day Thursday while authorities investigated a bomb threat. After parents complained, Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene apologized, saying: “While today was not our best day as a school district, we will use what we learned to be better in the future.” WJXT.

Opinions on schools: Defenders of the government’s subordination of poor parents’ right to choose a school for their children must justify the profound and debasing distinction we have drawn between social classes. John E. Coons, redefinED. To address the problem of poor STEM preparation of the state’s K-12 students, Florida’s education policy-makers would first have to acknowledge that we have that problem and then decide that it should be a priority to remedy it. I don’t see any sign of either happening in any of the state’s education sectors. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.