Federal testing waivers, AP testing at home, teachers and bumps in online instruction plans, and more

Relief actions: Federal standardized testing requirements for U.S. elementary and high school students have been waived by the U.S. Department of Education. “Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time,” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Friday. Politico. The 74. Education Week. T.H.E. Journal. President Trump announced Friday that college students will be able to temporarily suspend their federal student loan payments without penalty and with no accrued interest for at least two months. CNN. Democrats blocked the Senate’s coronavirus aid package on Sunday night, contending it helped corporate America more than U.S. citizens. The bill would provide $20 billion to help schools cope with the disruption caused by the virus, expand Trump’s suspension of federal student loan payments, and restrict DeVos’ authority to waive federal tests. Another vote is scheduled today. Politico. CNN. Associated Press. Remote school board and other public government meetings have been approved temporarily by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. High school students will be allowed to take their Advanced Placement tests at home, the College Board has announced. The exams will be shortened to 45 minutes, and will be offered on two dates that the organization will announce April 3. The tests will be adjusted to “measure skills that can’t be learned from Google or chats with friends,” said Trevor Packer, College Board senior vice president for AP. Gradebook.

Labor issues: Orange County teachers have reached an agreement with the school district that will allow employees considered at a high risk for the coronavirus under the CDC guidelines to stay home this week and still be paid if they are showing respiratory illness symptoms. The workers had been told they had to report to school today if they wanted to be paid. WFTV. Brevard County teachers say their contract agreement with the district has to be reworked to accommodate the new working conditions brought by the coronavirus. The dispute could have an impact on the district’s plans to roll out online classes for students. The union wants the district to provide the materials and equipment needed for online classes, and for those classes to not figure into teachers’ annual evaluations. Florida Today. Teachers in Charlotte County have the option of working from home or their classrooms starting today. Charlotte Sun. Pinellas and Pasco school employees will continue to be paid at least through June, according to district officials. Gradebook.

Online learning bumps: The migration from classroom to online learning has had a learning curve. In Hillsborough County, district officials had hoped to start online classes today, but have put it off for a week because there are still many unanswered questions, such as how grading is done and how to provide access to more than 5,000 students who don’t have electronic devices or Internet service. In Broward County, thousands of people bunched closer together than the recommended standard while standing in long lines to pick up laptops from schools so they can take online classes. And Duval County parents who didn’t follow the schedules set at each school for picking up laptops and WiFi hotspots also caused long lines and delays. Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Meanwhile, districts continue to make preparations to hold online classes for students, from creating a system to training teachers, and making sure students have laptops and home Internet access or providing students lessons to complete, or both. Sun Sentinel. Bradenton Herald. WTLV. WCTV. WPEC. WCTV. WTVT. Bradenton Times. Florida Times-Union. Florida Today. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Charlotte Sun. WJAX. WJXT. WKMG. Naples Daily News. WMBB. Until online learning has begun for school, parents have been assuming the roles of teachers across America. Associated Press. A parent homeschooling her child has tips for others. WFTS. A private school in Broward County made the switch to online instruction in two days. redefinED. AT&T commits $10 million to help with distance learning, and companies in the Palm Beach County area are partnering with the school district to get more than 11,000 digital devices into the hands of students who need them to participate in online classes. Florida Politics. WPEC. Some educators fear that online learning will leave behind low-income students who live in chaotic environments. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Forty-five states have now closed their schools, and most of the schools in the other states are closed even though they haven’t been ordered to do so. T.H.E. Journal.

More on the coronavirus: Someone associated with a Broward County school and a 17-year-old Santa Rosa County student have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to officials from the schools. The Broward patient was last at Walter C. Young Middle School in Pembroke Pines on March 12, and the Santa Rosa patient was a student at the Learning Academy of Santa Rosa in Milton when he tested positive March 20. Miami Herald. WSVN. Pensacola News Journal. Florida high school seniors are worried that the pandemic will wipe out their memorable final-year events like prom, grad nights, awards ceremonies and graduation ceremonies, and plead with their schools to find alternative ways to celebrate. Orlando Sentinel. The Scripps National Spelling Bee scheduled in May has been suspended. New York Times. Education Week. Miami-Dade school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho urges students to log off and get outside. “Give yourselves a break,” he said. “This has been an exhausting week. You deserve it.” Miami Herald. Caravans of teachers drive through students’ neighborhoods just to say hi. WFTS. WKMG. WJXT. Polk County schools donate medical equipment such as masks, gloves, wipes and gowns to local hospitals. WTSP. Lake County students are invited by a marketing company to enter a contest to create 30-second public service videos advising the public how to stay healthy through the outbreak. Daily Commercial. More districts and other organizations announce plans to continue feeding low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. Fort Myers News-Press. Cape Coral Breeze. WFTX. Tallahassee Democrat. Key West Citizen. WLRN. Lake Okeechobee News. Tampa Bay Times. Sebastian Daily. WEAR. WFSU. WFTV. Space Coast Daily. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, guidance for school districts and a glossaryFlorida Department of HealthFlorida Department of Education. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Patch. The CDC’s latest guidance for K-12 schools. Education Dive.

Montford bids goodbye: Bill Montford, who has been a teacher, principal, superintendent and state senator for most of the last 40 years, is term-limited and will step away from the Legislature after the November election. The 72-year-old is known as a moderate Democrat who made his position on issues crystal clear but didn’t blanch at making compromises to get things done. Tallahassee Democrat.

New schools: Parents are drawn to St. Johns County because of the reputation of the school system, but that’s also creating an overcrowding problem at many schools. New schools are in the works, but many parents say that’s a “Band-Aid” solution. ″(The district) is so far behind, they’re never going to catch up,” said one parent, Jeff Fejfar. “Even with these two new schools, they’re all going to be over capacity within two years of them being open.” St. Augustine Record. Destin High School is continuing its enrollment process through April, making plans to hire a principal by the end of the month and open its doors to 9th- and 10th-graders in August. The charter school will be located at the old Destin United Methodist Church site. School officials said they have raised $514,000 of their $2 million goal. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: When might things return to normal? Probably not as soon as anyone would like. Zac Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Covid-19 era isn’t likely to lead to the elimination of traditional public schooling. Nor should it. Education choice is about expanding options, not contracting them, so students can find the one that fits them best. However, the longer this break from the status quo lasts, the more Americans will become accustomed to the “new normal” in education — and perhaps become more receptive to its evolving forms. Scott Kent, redefinED. Learning from home is uncharted territory for Tampa Bay’s public schools, and it will require extraordinary effort by students, teachers, administrators and parents. Tampa Bay Times. Expanding school choice to more Florida families, as the Legislature has done, is a welcome step and a big win for families. Satya Marar, Sun Sentinel. Legislators got it right on raising teacher pay and allowing college athletes to be compensated for the use of the names and images, and wrong on expanding school vouchers. Orlando Sentinel.