Two districts revise reopening plans, FSU and UM reveal plans, graduations get an AR boost and more

Reopening K-12 schools: Two Florida school districts that had planned for a mixture of online and in-person learning when schools resume have revised those plans and are now expecting a full reopening of schools after Gov. Ron DeSantis urged them to “create a local safe schools plan to maintain in-person learning, which is the best method of education delivery for students.” The Sarasota County School District had considered trying to make changes to accommodate social distancing guidelines, which could have kept high school students learning remotely while their schools were used to spread out elementary and middle school students, but instead will start with a full reopening with safety specifications and contingency plans that hinge on the status of the virus. The school board will discuss the change at today’s meeting, as well as review the recommended superintendent finalists. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Englewood Sun. In St. Johns County, school officials now expect a full reopening if the coronavirus isn’t spreading or is spreading slowly. The district could shift to staggered school attendance or other options if the virus begins to spread moderately or substantially. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. The Walton County School District also plans a full reopening in the fall, with safety precautions, but summer classes will remain online. WMBB. Palm Beach County school officials haven’t finalized their reopening plans yet, but deputy superintendent Keith Oswald said they will include a remote learning option for those who aren’t ready to return to schools. WPEC. Pinellas County is asking parents to complete a survey on what they’d like to see in place when schools reopen. WFTS. Education experts offer tips on how districts can adjust their routines to reopen and operate safely. Education Week.

Reopening colleges: Testing for the coronavirus will be a priority when Florida State University reopens Aug. 24, with some courses in-person but most online, school officials said Monday in releasing their draft plan. The last two weeks of classes in the semester, after Thanksgiving, will be conducted online. The plan will be flexible to accommodate changing conditions. WJXT. Capitol News Service. The University of Miami’s plan is to start Aug. 17 and end the first semester Nov. 20, with all classes on campus. Students and staff will be screened and must get the flu vaccine. WTVJ. Miami Herald. Students will wear masks indoors, the number of in-person classes will be limited and other safety measures against the coronavirus will be in place when Eastern Florida State College’s four campuses reopen for fall classes. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. The University of South Florida has begun Phase 1 of its reopening plan, which includes a continuation of online classes, a maximum of 25 percent of employees on campus at any given time, and the use of face marks in enclosed areas. WUSF.

Augmented graduation: About 18,000 Broward County high school seniors got a graduation surprise from the district. Their virtual graduation was enhanced with the use of an augmented reality app that makes it look like students are getting their diplomas handed to them by Superintendent Robert Runcie, then joining rapper Flo Rida for a congratulatory message or a dance. The videos can then be shared on social media. Flo Rida called the technology “a trip” and said he was “happy to help these graduates define a new way of celebrating and social interaction as they move on to the next chapter in their young lives.” Associated Press. WTVX.

Applying for federal aid: Florida school districts have until June 30 to apply for $700 million in federal aid to help recover from the coronavirus pandemic. To get the money, districts will have to submit a plan of how they intend to spend it and how they’ll provide “equitable services” to private schools in their counties. Some states are ignoring the federal directive on sending money to private schools, but Florida officials have told districts they must follow it. Districts will also have to explain how they will evaluate student learning gaps, what they will do to close them, and how they’ll use the money to ensure continuity of learning. Gradebook.

More on the coronavirus: A Manatee County school is getting a deep cleaning after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Cleaning crews have disinfected “areas that need to be addressed” at Palmetto High School, according to a spokesman. Bradenton Herald. Lee County students are receiving a card in the mail from the state that they can use to buy food from grocery stores. Each county child receives $5.70 per day for 55 days. WFTX. Summer school for pre-K students in Hillsborough County will be held Monday through Thursday from June 22 through July 23. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and there is no cost. Gradebook. The United Way of St. Lucie County has launched a 54-day drive to collect thousands of supplies for teachers and students needed for the new school year. TCPalm.

Changing school names: An activist is calling on the Duval County School Board to change the names of five schools linked to the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee High School, J.E.B Stuart Middle, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Joseph Finegan Elementary and Jefferson Davis Middle. And more than 3,000 people have signed an online petition pushing the board to rename Robert E. Lee High. WJXT.

School salaries: Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis releases the annual salaries of his top 26 administrators, along with comparisons with salary ranges from other districts. The salaries of Davis’ team range from $129,065 to $165,093. Davis is being paid $310,000. Davis called the salaries “competitive and aligned with industry standards.” Gradebook.

Using schools as shelters: Volusia County is still planning to use schools as emergency shelters during a hurricane evacuation, despite the pandemic. State officials are developing a plan to use hotels as “non-congregate shelters” instead of schools. But that’s a work in progress, and Volusia officials said it might not be ready until the 2021 hurricane season so they are proceeding with their usual preparations. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Roof repairs begin: Repairs have begun to fix a partially collapsed roof over the principal’s officer at Bonita Springs Elementary School. Work should be completed before the school reopens Aug. 10, said district officials. Rob Spicker, the communications coordinator for the Lee County School District, said recent heavy rains caused the collapse. No one was injured, and Spicker said insurance is expected to cover the costs. Naples Daily News.

Notable deaths: Annette Dignam, a longtime educator in Charlotte County who helped start a preschool, taught K-3, and was a longtime member of the Sarasota County Education Foundation and State College of Florida, has died at the age of 78 in Englewood. Charlotte Sun.

Bond rating: The Fitch Ratings credit rating agency has given an A+ score to a $58 million Pinellas County School Board bond issue, but downgraded the outlook from stable to negative due to the uncertainty over potential budget cuts. Fitch Ratings.

Employees and the law: The president of the Santa Rosa County teachers union has been arrested and accused of firing a gun at another woman. Deputies said Rhonda Chavers, 64, fired three shots at a woman who was standing in the yard of Chavers’ home in Milton. Chavers was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill. Pensacola News Journal.

Opinions on schools: Right about now, encouraging people to wear masks in public is looking like a pretty good idea, not dissimilar from studying a state whose minority students score a grade level higher than your statewide average on reading. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Opening schools means opening everything about schools, and we are not in a place in time to have the confidence to return all these millions of people together, disregarding physical distance and sanitation. Magali Skelden, Florida Today.