Plans for reopening schools and universities, compensating athletes, police in schools and more

Reopening schools: A draft of the St. Johns County School District reopening plan calls for students to attend classes two days a week and learn from home the other three. Middle school and high school students and teachers would be separated into two groups and alternate the days they are in the classroom. WTLV. Given the choices of returning to school, learning remotely or combining the two, about 60 percent of Manatee County parents or guardians of students and others prefer returning to the classroom, according to a survey. Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said those who prefer remote learning will be accommodated. Bradenton Herald. Lafayette County Superintendent Robby Edwards said schools will reopen Aug. 10 with heightened cleaning protocols and masks and gloves available for those who want them but no changes in lunch schedules or bus routes. Suwannee Democrat. Plans to reopen Sumter County schools and The Villages Charter School are being drafted that include basic safety precautions, mask-wearing in some circumstances and the use of remote learning as needed. Villages Daily Sun. Citrus County school officials said funding, classroom capacity, busing and food services are the biggest issues that must be addressed before schools reopen. Citrus County Chronicle. Enrollment in Volusia Online Learning has increased fourfold over what it was this time last year, said principal J. Susy Peterson. She expects as many as 500-600 students in the fall, instead of the usual 100-150. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said she worries that more parents will be choosing to home-school their children next year, resulting in more segregation in public schools. WFSU. About 67 percent of Lake County employees and 58 percent of parents and students support reopening schools with appropriate safety measures taken. Orlando Sentinel.

Reopening universities: The four largest universities in Florida all plan to have students wear masks indoors, test thousands of students and staff for the coronavirus, offer students the option of in-person or online classes or a blend of the two, and make adjustments in student housing to reduce occupancy. The Board of Governors, which had given the schools a blueprint for reopening schools, will consider the plans at its June 23 meeting. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Atlantic University’s board of trustees have approved the school’s 25-page reopening plan that calls for reduced class sizes, wearing face masks for physical distancing isn’t possible, dropping housing occupancy to 96 percent, and giving students the option of online or in-person classes or a hybrid model combining the two. University Press.

Compensating athletes: Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that allows college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Florida, California and Colorado all have passed bills allowing athletes to be paid, but Florida’s goes into effect sooner, on July 1, 2021. About two-dozen other states are considering similar measures. The NCAA has long resisted allowing athletes to be compensated beyond their scholarships, but has reconsidered under pressure from the states and is expected to vote in January to lift some restrictions. DeSantis said the law is expected to allow “great athletes” to capitalize on their fame. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Phoenix.

Police in schools: The Gainesville City Commission wants to stop paying for Alachua County school resource officers in the city limits. The commission voted 4-3 last week to begin negotiations with the school district to end the contract and turn the funding responsibility back to the district. The total cost for the officers is $2.1 million a year, and the city pays $904,000 of that. “There’s a lot that we can do with that $900,000 in this year’s budget and I’d like to see that happen,” said city commissioner Gail Johnson. WCJB. Does the presence of police officers in schools make students feel safer, or more threatened? That’s the fundamental question school districts around the country are starting to ask. New York Times.

Why they’re protesting: Black high school students in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties talk in their own words about their sometimes uncomfortable school experiences and why they decided to protest after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. TCPalm. Manatee County school officials are considering requiring all school employees to undergo implicit bias training. Bradenton Herald.

Reorganization plan opposed: Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s administrative reorganization plan is being challenged by several school board members and advocacy groups. Last week, Fennoy proposed transferring deputy superintendent Keith Oswald to deal with equity issues and making other moves to “flatten” to bureaucracy and save money in anticipation of budget cuts caused by falling tax revenues. Board members questioned the move in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and planning for reopening schools, and the Coalition for Black Student Achievement said such a move would put the education of black students at risk. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach County School Board members have approved paying the board’s general counsel nearly $102,000 to retire. Julieann Rico will get the money, plus payouts for accrued sick and vacation time, when she leaves in September. Board chair Frank Barbieri said the decision is a short-term hit on the budget, but a long-term gain that’s expected to save more than $400,000 over the next two years. Palm Beach Post.

Tax hike vote killed: Nassau County School Board members have decided not to ask voters to approve a 1 mill increase in property taxes to pay for higher teacher salaries and improve security. They cited the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy. “I think for us to burden our young families with additional tax – this is not the right time to do that,” said board chair Donna Martin. Fernandina Beach News-Leader.

Civics initiative: Sixty Florida middle and high schools in 28 districts have been selected by the state to participate in the first phase of a civics and debate initiative. Selected schools will have expanded speech and debate programs, funded through a $5 million grant from the Marcus Foundation. The program will expand to all Florida schools by 2023. Florida Department of Education WJHG. Tampa Dispatch. A report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is calling for an expansion of civics education to include projects, service learning, student government, debate training and budgeting exercises. Education Dive.

School getting updated: A Polk County school is getting a $46 million modernization, thanks to money from the increased sales tax voters approved in 2018. Several one-story buildings at Mulberry High School will be replaced with one large building that’s partially two-story and partially three. Some campus buildings, such as the auditorium, will remain. The new school will include a gym, dining area, green house, labs for robotics, engineering, health and automotive, and a field for the band marching. Enrollment capacity will be 1,600 students, compared with the current 1,200. The opening is scheduled for December 2021. Lakeland Ledger.

New school opening: A new school is opening in the fall in Lake County that uses the arts to teach traditional STEM subjects. “We guide them through learning but so many kids are capable of discovery, creation and analysis,” said Nikki Duslak, the founder of the K-5 CREATE Conservatory in Leesburg. “Our approach is about getting back to fundamentals of creativity and play in learning. Too often our kids are told to fill in a bubble test to prove they are learning, but every kid is different and there should be an environment for that.” Daily Commercial.

School elections: Four of nine Miami-Dade County School Board seats are being contested this year, and two of nine Broward board seats. Miami Herald. Three of seven Pinellas County School Board seats are being contested. Tampa Bay Times. Nine school board seats are being contested in Orange, Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties. Orlando Sentinel. One Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning has two challengers, while two candidates are in the running for a school board seat. Tampa Bay Times. Nineteen candidates have qualified to run for Hillsborough County School Board seats. Gradebook. Three candidates are in the race to replace retiring Santa Rosa County Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, and two people have qualified in each of the two school board races. Pensacola News Journal. Two Indian River County School Board seats have each attracted two candidates. TCPalm. Three candidates have qualified in each of the St. Lucie County School Board seats up for election. TCPalm. Seven candidates are running for two Manatee County School Board seats. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Both Sarasota County School Board seats have attracted two candidates. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Two candidates have qualified in each of the two school board races on the Alachua County ballot. Gainesville Sun. Three candidates have filed for the only Marion County School Board seat up for election. Ocala Star-Banner. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna and an incumbent school board member have each drawn one challenger. Tallahassee Democrat. A Volusia County School Board incumbent is being challenged by two people. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Three Flagler County School Board seats are being contested. Flagler Live. Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt has drawn one opponent. Panama City News Herald. One St. Johns County School Board seat has drawn two candidates. St. Augustine Record. Citrus County Superintendent Sandra Himmel has drawn a challenger, and three candidates are running for a school board seat. Citrus County Chronicle. Four Duval County school board elections are on the ballot, and Clay County Superintendent David Broskie has two challengers. WJXT.

Notable deaths: Mabel Witham, a pioneer in teaching special-needs students in Martin County, has died at the age of 96. TCPalm. Longtime Titusville educator and community leader Pat Manning has died at the age of 91. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily.

School roof partly collapses: A portion of the roof over the principal’s office at Bonita Springs Elementary School collapsed over the weekend. No one was injured, and the cause is unknown. That portion of the school was built in 1921. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX.

Employees and the law: A Santa Rosa County teacher has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a student at Navarre High School in the summer of 2019. Meghan Mary Rodriguez, 37, resigned after being told she was under investigation by the school district. Pensacola News Journal.

Opinions on schools: Parents around the country have found that home-schooling can be both a blessing and a curse. USA Today. School impact fees are a belated but necessary way to help prevent development in Alachua County from being further subsidized by the rest of the community. Gainesville Sun. While many of our schools bask in their continued excellence, others with high minority enrollments are starving for resources. Sarasota County needs a superintendent who can and will make rescuing these schools a priority. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. If university physics faculties want to address the underrepresentation of black students in our undergraduate physics programs, we are going to have to do it ourselves by reaching out to students at the high school level or before and somehow providing the encouragement and preparation they need to get them ready to succeed in our departments. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Tweets are character. You can’t hide behind the conceit of social media being a different universe, somehow segregated and unrelated to one’s public persona as an elected official, as much as Flagler County School Board chair Janet McDonald wishes she could. Pierre Tristam, Flagler Live.