Schools might not be used as shelters, special session, reopening Florida, graduations and more

Schools as shelters: Just a little more than a month before the beginning of the hurricane season, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said the state is considering using hotels as shelters instead of schools to cut down on the possibility of spreading the coronavirus. He said another option is to issue stay-at-home orders for Category 1 or 2 hurricanes for people in evacuation zones if they live in homes built since 1996. “That way we don’t have as many people congregating, leaving,” Moskowitz said, while acknowledging that such a plan wouldn’t work for stronger storms. People who live in older homes or areas typically hard-hit could then be sent to hotels. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida.

Special legislative session: While no special session of the Legislature is scheduled, state finance officials think it’s inevitable to address anticipated budget shortages caused by the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown. Officials in the Florida Division of Bond Finance said the state has enough cash to get through the fiscal year, which ends June 30, but that adjustments to the $93 billion budget for next year will have to be made. The economists’ report disclosed that state revenue was up $61 million in February, which Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said will “help buffer against significant revenue losses (expected in the report on April).” Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Sun Sentinel.

Re-Open Florida Task Force: Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that he does not anticipate allowing bars or movie theaters to open any time soon, or allowing fans to attend sporting events until “far into the future.” Florida will reopen “with a very small step forward” and in stages, he said, and he added, “I’m not in a rush.” His Re-Open Florida Task Force concluded its meetings Friday, and is expected to make its recommendations to the governor this week. The task force is now asking residents to make suggestions on how the state might safely start reopening its economy with an online public comment form. “Public feedback will be a critical component of the Task Force’s final report,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WJXT. WFSU. WPTV. WMFE. The Florida Department of Education has sent letters to educators and parents for feedback on how it, school districts and their school responded to the coronavirus crisis. WBBH.

Graduation plans: Orange County high school seniors will be honored at virtual graduation ceremonies in June, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins announced on Friday, and traditional in-person graduations for the county’s 20 high schools will be held in July if they can be done safely. “This allows closure for many of our seniors who will pursue other activities this summer but keeps the door open for many who hope for an in-person ceremony,” Jenkins said, though she added that “current information makes the likelihood of an in-person ceremony unlikely.” Orlando Sentinel. Volusia County school officials have announced that graduation ceremonies for the county’s 10 high schools have been scheduled July 9, 10 and 11. WKMG. WOFL. Sarasota’s Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School will hold a traditional graduation ceremony on Friday, July 31, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, according to principal Ben Hopper. WWSB.

School construction projects: Hillsborough County school officials have the money set aside for school construction and repairs, but the projects may be delayed because the coronavirus pandemic is holding up shipments of the materials needed for the work. Sumner High School in Riverview is scheduled to open in August, but seats for the auditorium have yet to arrive because production has been shut down at the Michigan factory, and flooring materials have also been delayed. The air conditioner manufacturer Trane has advised that new units have been delayed at least 30 days. Sixteen schools are scheduled to get new air conditioners this summer, and five others are waiting for parts. Gradebook.

Online learning: Online learning got off to a rocky start in south Florida school districts. Many students didn’t have laptops or tablets to sign in, creating equity concerns. For the ones who had devices, sign-in and learning programs crashed under the volume. Many students simply stopped trying to get into the systems to attend classes or get their assignments. But officials said they’ve largely overcome those problems. Attendance is up to nearly normal levels, and routine is settling in to the point that Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said there’s no reason “that we [shouldn’t] be able to continue a good portion of our education.” Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho agrees, with a caveat. “We are way ahead of the curve, but we’re still not satisfied. One child missing is still one child too many.” Miami Herald. Amid complaints about virtual schooling, Alachua County school Superintendent Karen Clarke is urging parents and teachers to be flexible and talk about the problems. Gainesville Sun. It hasn’t been smooth, but U.S. public schools are starting to cope with the inherent problems created by online instruction, such as the scarcity of access for low-income and rural students. “Nobody knows the right path forward,” said Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a nonpartisan education research center in Seattle. “We’re all going to have to try things and give each other grace.” New York Times. Some parents frustrated by the demands of online learning for their children are choosing to bunch up the students’ work into a single day or two or even disconnecting entirely for the remainder of the school year. Associated Press.

More on the coronavirus: Reports of child abuse have fallen 20 percent in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties since schools closed, according to the Department of Children and Families. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Fifty Polk County school buses with wifi will park in designated areas on weekdays, starting today, to provide Internet access for students who have none. Lakeland Ledger. WFTS. The uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic has many high school students considering taking a year off college. Sun Sentinel. A network of central Florida high school students have set up a “Learn With Us” website offering free tutoring for younger students. WKMG. Students form a car parade to the Hospice House in Hernando County to show their love and support for David Feinberg, a science teacher Nature Coast Technical High with cancer who recently entered hospice care. Tampa Bay Times. Farica West, the principal at Poplar Springs School in Graceville, honored her 30 graduating seniors by placing their portraits along the driveway to the school. WMBB. In a Q&A, Brevard County School Board member Matt Susin talks about distance learning and student meals. Space Coast Daily. Apopka High School in Orange County becomes a coronavirus test site this week. Apopka Voice. St. Augustine High School couples make their own proms after the school’s is canceled. Florida Times-Union. Football practices are going digital for some Orlando area high schools. Orlando Sentinel. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. News Service of Florida. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily.

Charter opening delayed: A new dual language charter school that was supposed to open in August in Sarasota County has been delayed. Dreamers Academy  was scheduled to open last fall but was delayed when it couldn’t find a location. Then it made a deal to locate in the YMCA to help that struggling organization, but that also fell through. School officials said they finally found a campus, but the coronavirus outbreak has made it impossible to prepare the school for a grand opening. Now it hopes to open in the fall of 2021. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Hiring teachers: The Manatee County School will try to fill 90 openings for K-12 teachers at a virtual job fair May 8. Starting salaries range from $45,232 to $47,731. Other west-central Florida districts are also starting the recruiting season virtually. Bradenton Herald. WTVT. WFTS.

Educators honored: Daniel Dilocker, a technology teacher at East Ridge Middle School, has been named central Florida’s STEM teacher of the year. South Lake Tablet. Daily Commercial. Esther Hoagland, who donates about 40 hours a week at Eustis Heights Elementary School, has been named the Lake County School District volunteer of the year. Daily Commercial.

Scholarship programs audit: The Florida Auditor General listed two minor findings against Step Up For Students’ administration of four state scholarship programs in a report issued last week while concluding the organization “generally complied with the applicable provisions of state law.” The report questioned processing steps in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Gardiner Scholarship programs. SUFS, which hosts this blog, made procedural changes to address both questions. redefinED.

Notable deaths: Cicely Thomas, a longtime teacher, assistant principal and principal for the Citrus County School District, recently died of cancer at the age of 74. Citrus County Chronicle.

Opinions on schools: Unless Florida’s leaders show extraordinary resolve, the impacts of a pandemic on public education in the state of Florida are likely to be grim. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Preparing students to responsibly exercise citizenship represented a foundational aspiration in the founding of the American public school system. But our education system is failing to accomplish this goal. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. The Pinellas County special property tax for public schools has an established record, a clear benefit, consistently strong voter support and faces a deadline to be extended. The school board should vote this week to put the re-approval on the November ballot. Tampa Bay Times. Florida keeps spending way more on inmates than it invests on 4-year-olds … and wonders why things don’t work out so well. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. What might “normal” look like for Florida in six months? Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Central Florida students competed virtually in the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition sponsored by the Orlando Science Center. Two grand prize winners were named. Space Coast Daily. Orlando Science Center. Gabriella Peburn, a senior at Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach, has been selected as a National Honor Society Scholarship semi-finalist. She’s the only student from Volusia County to be recognized this year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. North Port High School in Sarasota County is one of just three schools kin the state to be named as a Florida Arts Model School, with an additional Florida Arts Achieve School, by the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. SRQ magazine. Two Eustis students who produced a public service video about hand-washing will have their work broadcast on Lake Sumter TV after winning the Red Apples Media video competition. Daily Commercial.