State reopening plan coming today, ‘drive-in’ graduations, financial concerns and more

Reopening Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday that he would announce today how he plans to reopen the state’s economy. DeSantis made his statement during a meeting with President Trump at the White House. Trump praised the governor, saying he was doing a “spectacular job in Florida” and “enjoys very high popularity.” Florida’s stay-at-home order expires Thursday. DeSantis has said his reopening approach would be “methodical” and “data-driven,” and might be slower than some people would like. Florida Politics. USA Today Network. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. Politico Florida. Teachers union officials are asking DeSantis to create two statewide advisory panels that include educators, parents and students before making any decisions on when to reopen K-12 schools and colleges. Gradebook. The question of when to reopen schools, and how to do it safely, is one school officials around the world are considering. Associated Press.

Graduation plans: “Drive-in” graduation ceremonies will be held May 26-28 for seniors graduating from Leon County high schools. Seniors and family members will park at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, facing two large movie screens, and tune in to radio station 93.3 to listen to Pomp and Circumstance. Class presidents, valedictorians and salutatorians will give speeches, and a photo of each graduating senior will be shown on the screens as their names are announced. Graduations will also be live-streamed for those who can’t attend. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WFSU. Drive-in ceremonies are also planned for Sumter County’s two graduations. WMFE. The Indian River County School District will hold in-person graduation ceremonies in July, Superintendent David Moore announced on Tuesday. Vero Beach High’s ceremony will be July 10 and Sebastian River High’s July 11. TCPalm. Graduation ceremonies for Polk County schools will be held in June, in an outdoor setting, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd announced on Tuesday. Details will be released later this week. Lakeland Ledger. Collier County schools will hold virtual graduations on June 3, and the district hopes to hold “celebration events” for each school’s seniors in July. Naples Daily News. Bay County School Board members have approved graduation dates. Most were pushed into July in an attempt to have in-person ceremonies. WJHG. June dates have been announced for Nassau County high school graduations, with July dates as backups. Nassau County Record.

Bright Futures rules: Many graduating Florida high school seniors are in a financial no-man’s land as they prepare to enroll in college in the fall. Those who fall just below the scoring threshold on SAT or ACT tests to help them qualify for Bright Futures scholarships would, any other year, have a couple more opportunities to retake the test and improve their scores. Not this year. The tests have been canceled until August, and many schools have a May 1 deadline to make a deposit. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the state expects to have a solution for the problem in a couple of weeks. Tampa Bay Times. Some Florida public universities are asking the Board of Governors for permission to not require ACT and SAT test scores for college admission in the fall of 2021 if the two companies don’t commit to giving tests regularly by August. The board is expected to consider the request at its May 5 meeting. Orlando Sentinel.

Budget concerns: Marion County school officials say they’re getting mixed messages about the budget outlook for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Politicians and state officials are assuring them that extra dollars allocated by the Legislature, the state’s reserve fund and federal relief aid will prevent significant cuts. But the district’s chief financial officer, Theresa Boston-Ellis, said, “Even as we built our budget, we hear that we will not be harmed or that we should be prepared to cut 10 percent to 30 percent of the budget.” She said the district also had a robust budget going into the 2007-2008 school year. Then the recession came along, and deep cuts were needed. Ocala Star-Banner. South Florida school superintendents join others around the country in a letter to Congress asking for more than $200 billion in aid from the next coronavirus relief bill. Without that help, they warn, hundreds of thousands of teachers in urban areas will be laid off. WLRN. Politico. The Brevard County School District faces a $2 million budget shortfall, and that’s without any consideration of the financial impact from the pandemic, school board members are told. Florida Today.

Private school problems: Many of the state’s private schools faced the usual problems associated with online learning, such as having enough electronic devices and finding ways to engage students, and most say they have adapted well. But the next challenge — their financial futures — could be more daunting. “I think all private schools in general are going to be faced with serious challenges,” said Henry Fortier, superintendent of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando’s 43 schools. With unemployment rising, many families will no longer be able to afford to send their children to private schools. And there are growing worries that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for low-income students, could see a decline in donations from corporations because of the economic downturn. Step Up For Students, which helps administer the tax credit scholarships program and hosts this blog, said it’s too early to know what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the program. Orlando Sentinel.

Taking attendance: South Florida school districts are ahead of most U.S. districts in tracking whether their students are attending online classes, according to research by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, a think tank based at the University of Washington. Of the 82 districts tracked, just 19 are taking attendance, and seven of those are in Florida. It’s important information, said researcher Bree Dusseault, “because it does allow us to see which students schools are reaching and where those gaps are. You’ve got to be able to see those gaps in order to close them.” WLRN. The 74. Central Florida schools districts are struggling to contact students who have not been participating in online learning. WESH. Martin County school officials are reporting a 95 percent attendance rate in online learning, and St. Lucie County 89 percent. Indian River County measures student engagement by emails sent, assignments completed and conferences and phone calls participated in. It reported 96 percent engagement in Week 1 and 98 percent in Week 2. TCPalm.

More on the coronavirus: Palm Beach County school officials are planning to cancel final exams and the 20-hour community service requirement for graduation. Palm Beach Post. Leon County students’ grades for the final nine weeks of school can be what they’ve earned or the average of the first three nine-week periods, whichever is higher. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Bay County school officials are considering an alternative calendar in which schools would open after Labor Day, in case the pandemic is still lingering when schools are scheduled to open in August. WMBB. More than 90 percent of St. Johns County parents surveyed said that their children are comfortable using online tools and that communications with their teachers have been excellent or satisfactory. St. Augustine Record. Teachers unions and school districts have several significant issues to resolve related to online instruction. Education Week. Two Pinellas County teachers talk about their priorities in online teaching, making adjustments because not all students have access the the same resources, and being patient. WUSF. To cheer up high school seniors for all the end-of-school events they’re missing, some south Florida principals are finding creative ways to salute them and offer congratulations. Sun Sentinel. Coronavirus testing will be held at St. Cloud High School in Osceola County, starting today. WKMG. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Capital Soup.

No waiver for disability law: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced that she will not recommend that Congress waive the rules applying to educating students with disabilities as part of the coronavirus relief package. A provision in that bill allowed the secretary to request a waiver of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to make it easier for schools to provide online education. WITF.

Property tax on ballot: Indian River County voters will be asked in August to renew a half-mill property tax surcharge for the school district. The $9 million to $11 million a year the tax would collect will be used for recruiting and retaining teachers, mental and social health services and to upgrade technology. TCPalm.

Impact fees: In March, the Hillsborough County Commission approved an increase in the school impact fee from from $4,000 to $8,596. Builders gave it their blessing. Now the commission is considering boosting the impact fees for parks, transportation and utilities from $9,000 to more than $18,000. That, combined with the school hike, would take the impact fees on a new 2,000-square-foot home from less than $13,000 to about $28,000. Jennifer Motsinger, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association, called the proposal “ridiculous.” Tampa Bay Times.

Charter school plans: A Leon County charter school says it is going ahead with its planned opening in the fall, whether it’s in classrooms with students or over an Internet connection. The Tallahassee Classical School has a language-based curriculum, with 4th-graders taking Greek and Latin, approaches math as a progression subject, and infuses Shakespeare into English and arts classes. Tallahassee Democrat.

New school financing: Bay County School Board members approve a $42 million certificate of participation to finance the construction of an elementary school in Panama City Beach, covering everything from construction materials to books. The scheduled opening is August 2021. WMBB. WJHG.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s fast, fairly consistent rollout of remote learning highlights some unsung policy and leadership achievements that deserve more attention — from its sophisticated approach to virtual education to the skill and longevity of superintendents in some of its largest urban districts. Travis Pillow, redefinED. We will emerge from this coronavirus challenge with a fresh view of how many ways there are for our students to learn and prepare for success in school and in life. State Sen. Manny Diaz, The 74. How do local school districts pull off a series of events that involve hundreds of kids, teachers and administrators and attract thousands of spectators, crammed into a crowded and sometimes indoor space, while keeping everyone safe? Former Martin County School Board member Tina McSoley has a few ideas. Gil Smart, TCPalm. The success of our recovery will not only be measured by our ability to get our economy reopened; it will also be how we work together to lift those who have fallen through the cracks. Our children deserve a meaningful and full-fledged commitment to get them, and us, back on track towards a more positive and hopeful future. Mike Ryan and Rick Hoye, Sun Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Five juniors and seniors from the Pine View School in Sarasota have won the national MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge. A second team from the school finished sixth among the 760 teams competing. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.