Schools won’t reopen in May, learning loss, technology troubles, graduations and more

Florida schools won’t reopen: Florida’s K-12 students will not return to their schools this academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Saturday. Instead, they will continue taking online classes until adjournment for summer. “The last thing that we’re going to do is force everyone in school and have half the kids not show up with their parents,” DeSantis said. “And then teachers will not want to do it.” Most schools have been closed since March 17. On April 9, DeSantis said if the conditions were right schools could be reopened, even if it was only for a couple of weeks. Educators and parents were critical of that option, and DeSantis said consultation with them and others led him to reach what he called “the best decision.” The reaction to the announcement to close schools through June 3 was largely positive. “It’s a great decision by the governor. This is the least disruptive decision for both our students and our employees,” said Hillsborough County school Superintendent Addison Davis. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Today. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Citrus County Chronicle. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WJXT. WUSF. WCJB. WLRN. WSVN. WKMG. WMBB. Santa Rosa County school Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said online learning could become an important part of education’s future. In a fast-growing county like his, Wyrosdick said, teaching more students virtually could reduce the need to build new schools. “If we could reduce the need for capital projects then we can reorganize those dollars to help support learning inside the classroom,” he said. WEAR.

Learning loss concerns: The annual “summer slide” of learning loss between the end of one school year and the start of the next will be exacerbated by the truncated education children are receiving online because of the coronavirus outbreak, educators say. “The concept that when we resume it’s all normal, that’s a fallacy,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. So districts have started to plan how to close the gap, especially for low-income students who might not have the same access to technology as their classmates. “From this point until the end of the school year, there will be a lot of content kids won’t get that they should,” said Latoya Jordan, principal of Lacoochee Elementary School in Pasco County. “When kids come back in August, we have to start thinking about it now. How are we going to infuse that content into what they are learning?” Extending summer programs, longer school days, targeted programs for students thought to be most at-risk, and even the possibility of using transitional grade levels are all ideas being discussed. Tampa Bay Times.

Technology troubles: Florida’s plan for virtual learning hinged on technology, such as students having access to laptops and adequate home Internet service. Schools and districts have loaned out laptops and wifi hot spots by the thousands, but the larger question may be the students’ ability to use them.  Teacher say they’re seeing many students proficient with phones and apps who are unable to use the laptops and the programs they run. “What I am experiencing with my students is a strange unfamiliarity with the technology we all thought they were so proficient with,” said Nancy Velardi, an English teacher at Pinellas Park High School. “This has been an amazing eye-opener,” said Hillsborough School Board member Karen Perez, and it gives the district a necessary lesson on improvements that need to be made. Tampa Bay Times. Most U.S. teachers received minimal training on how to conduct online education, according to officials with the Online Learning Consortium, a nonprofit group that offers training services. Teachers need about three months of courses to really become effective virtual instructors, said the consortium’s chief executive officer Jennifer Mathes. Hechinger Report.

Graduations and spring sports: The governor’s announcement that schools are closed the rest of this academic year has most likely shut the door on holding high school graduations or completing the high school spring sports season. Schools are scrambling to try to reschedule graduations later in the summer. In Duval County, officials say graduations will hopefully be held sometime in July. In Brevard County, commencement is now set for June 22, with a July 20 backup date. The Florida High School Athletic Association had held out hope of resuming the spring sports season in May, but said if that wasn’t possible it would consider extending the season until June 30. And if the season is canceled altogether, FHSAA officials said they would consider giving the spring sports student-athletes extra eligibility. The organization is expected to make an announcement today. Florida Times-Union. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. Orlando Sentinel. WJHG.

More on the coronavirus: Online school attendance is dropping in south Florida schools, and is now significantly under the averages from the last school year. Sun Sentinel. Is taking attendance even worth it right now? Education Week. Collier County teachers say they’re starting to settle into online instruction, and are using the opportunity to try new things. Naples Daily News. Marion County school officials say online learning is going as well as can be expected, and that most parents have been understanding through the process. Ocala Star-Banner. The first $349 billion in federal coronavirus relief was gone by last week, leaving many private schools still waiting for financial help. redefinED. International boarding school students in Florida are stuck on their campuses because they can’t get home. USA Today. About 60 Florida International University medical school students are donating their time to help tutor Miami-Dade County School District students. Miami Herald. More than 20 students at Palm Bay Magnet High in Melbourne craft an “I miss you” video for their teachers. Florida Today. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of EducationMiami Herald. St. Augustine Record. WCJB. Tallahassee Democrat. WBBH. WZVN. Questions and answers about the coronavirus. Florida Department of HealthFlorida Department of Education. New York Times.

School tax vote by mail: Franklin County residents will vote by mail in June on the renewal of a four-year half-mill property tax levy for the school district. County commissioners approved the request from school Superintendent Traci Yoder. In the 12 years the tax has been imposed, about $12.3 million has been collected for operating expenses such as technology, expansion of academic programs such as art and aerospace, athletics, after-school activity buses and more. Voters will have until May 25 to register. Ballots will be mailed, and must be returned by June 23. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Discrimination policy: Flagler County School Board members will decide this week whether changes are needed in the district’s anti-discrimination policies to give more specific protection to transgender students. Three of the five board members have said they don’t believe the policy needs to be adjusted because it already protects students based on gender. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Builders sue over impact fees: The Santa Rosa County School Board and the county government are being sued over new school impact fees that begin May 4. The Home Builders Association of West Florida and several local homebuilders filed the suit in circuit court, claiming that the impact fees are “invalid, unconstitutional and illegal.” An ordinance setting fees at $5,000 for single-family houses, $4,000 for mobile homes and $2,750 for multi-family units was approved by the county commission in January at the request of the school district, which said it needs the money for new schools to keep up with population growth. Pensacola News Journal.

School consolidation: Volusia County School Board members are considering consolidating Ortona and Osceola elementary schools into a new K-8 school built on one of the existing campuses in Ormond Beach or Daytona Beach. The cost could approach $45 million and wouldn’t be completed until at least December 2022. Board members are expected to make the decision at a meeting May 11. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Automated tuition payments: A new automated system allows Florida parents to electronically approve tuition payments from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program directly to the private school their child attends. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and helps administer the scholarship program, will email parents with a link to approve or deny a payment. If the parents approve, SUFS will then transfer the money to the school’s bank. Before this change, SUFS mailed checks to the schools, and parents had to go in to sign them over to the school, which then had to deposit the money into the bank. Lawmakers approved the use of digital payments in 2017. redefinED.

Employee honored: Serita Morgan, who is the family-school liaison at Beverly Shores Elementary School in Leesburg, has been named the Lake County School District’s school-related employee of the year. Daily Commercial.

Notable deaths: C. McDonald Campbell, who taught from the 1930s into the 1970s at the Laurel Hill School and elsewhere in Okaloosa County, has died at the age of 105. Northwest Florida Daily News. Frank Permuy, a longtime high school and college baseball coach in the Tampa Bay area, has died of brain cancer. He was 77. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis made the right calls over the weekend by announcing public schools should remain closed for the academic year and ordering the release of the names of elder care facilities that have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Tampa Bay Times. For years, Florida has been sliding toward a K-12 model in which lowest-common-denominator student achievement is the norm. Some of the state’s school districts are resisting that slide, but overall that is where the state is heading. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The coronavirus has changed our world dramatically. Teachers are showing us how to adapt. Kristen Hare, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Thirty-one Florida high school seniors are among the 620 U.S. semifinalists for 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars program for their academic achievement. Up to 161 will be chosen as scholars sometime in May. U.S. Department of Education. Space Coast Daily.

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BY NextSteps staff