Two students have died after contracting virus, reopening schools, graduations canceled and more

Two students die after positive tests: Two Florida high school students have died after contracting the coronavirus. A 17-year-old Lee County student died Tuesday due to complications from the coronavirus after being admitted to a hospital Friday, school board member Melissa Giovannelli announced. The victim was Carsyn Davis, who attended Cypress Lake High School and was a member of the orchestra. In Pasco County, medical examiners are investigating the weekend death of a 17-year-old rising junior at Wesley Chapel High School after he tested positive. The exact cause of death and his name have not been released. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WBBH. WFLA.

Reopening schools: Hillsborough County students will have the option of attending schools, learning exclusively online or mixing the two methods when the new academic year starts Aug. 10, Superintendent Addison Davis said Tuesday. While students won’t be required to wear masks unless they’re riding school buses, the district will buy three reusable masks for each student. Students will not have their temperatures checked when they enter schools. Board members and parents are being asked for their reopening preferences, and the answers will help shape the final plan. Gradebook. WTVT. WFLA. WFTS. Duval County students can attend schools in-person or online or a combination of the two when schools reopen Aug. 10, according to the tentative plan announced Tuesday. Other highlights include the possibility that protective partitions will be installed when desks and tables cannot be placed 6 feet apart, and the addition of bus routes. WJXT. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WTLV. Volusia County Superintendent Scott Fritz is recommending schools reopen Aug. 10 with all students in classrooms. No hybrid option was offered at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “It took us this long to get to that point where we could come to the conclusion that brick-and-mortar is the right move for us,” Fritz said. “A blended approach would not work for our district. We could not afford that.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. Spectrum News 13. The St. Johns County School District is considering requiring students who ride school buses to wear masks. Masks would be strongly encouraged for students in classrooms and hallways. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. Visitors to Pasco County schools will have to wear masks, though the district’s students will not. Tampa Bay Times. One Palm Beach County School Board member thinks the school year shouldn’t start until September. “I understand the pressures on families,” said Debra Robinson, a retired physician, “but I just want everyone to live to see another day.” Palm Beach Post.

Reopening universities: Reopening plans of all 12 universities in the state system were approved Tuesday by the Florida Board of Governors. All of the schools will require students to wear face masks. Many classes will be held online, and class sizes will be reduced to follow social distancing guidelines. Board chair Syd Kitson said the schools must remain flexible to be able to adjust to changing circumstances. “It is clear that the COVID-19 virus will not likely disappear anytime soon and positive virus cases in campus communities will likely occur,” he said. “Social-distancing policies and other protections for students and employees will become the norm for the foreseeable future.” News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. WEAR. WKMG. WTSP. WFLX. WCJB. WTXL. Tallahassee Democrat. Gainesville Sun. WFSU. WPTV. WCTV.

Graduations canceled: A spike in coronavirus cases and deaths has prompted the Osceola County School District to cancel the traditional graduation ceremonies that had been planned for the week of July 6. “The district had postponed graduations traditionally held in May in hopes that health and safety conditions as a result of COVID-19 had improved. Unfortunately, that has not occurred,” the district announced in a statement. Officials said high schools are making plans to celebrate graduates on a smaller and safer scale. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. Hillsborough County school officials have plans to hold graduation ceremonies indoors at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall between July 13 and 21, with three or four graduations held per day. Graduates will be permitted just two tickets each, and guests will be spaced out as much as possible. Gradebook. Several people who attended the Bradford High School graduation June 19 have tested positive for the coronavirus, district officials said. Those who attended the ceremony have been notified, and Florida Department of Health officials are following up to check their health. WCJB. WJXT.

Return of fall sports: A Florida High School Athletic Association task force said the organization is moving ahead with fall high school sports, with offseason activities allowed to begin on July 27. Executive Director George Tomyn said the FHSAA will be flexible with schedule changes necessitated by virus outbreaks, and may have to adjust state championship tournaments. “I’m not so sure that we’re going to be able to have that this year in the traditional format as in the past,” Tomyn said. Florida Times-Union.

More on the coronavirus: The Pinellas County School District is spending $21 million to buy 42,000 laptops to hand out to every student from 4th to 9th grade for use in the classroom and at home. Tampa Bay Times. Former U.S. education secretary John King Jr. testified Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has worsened racial disparities in education. King, who is now  president and CEO of The Education Trust, was speaking to the U.S. House Education & Labor Committee. States Newsroom. Summer school has begun in Collier County, with a mixture of in-person and online learning. Teachers are wearing masks, and students are encouraged to. Naples Daily News. The Brevard County School District said it’s extending its distribution of free meals to students and their families through July 31. Beginning July 6, meals will be available from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 13 schools. Space Coast Daily. WKMG.

DeSantis signs 23 bills: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed 23 more bills into laws on Tuesday. Among them were bills aimed at giving student-athletes better protection against heat-related illnesses during practices and games, and incorporating the teaching of anti-Semitism and the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre into students’ lessons. DeSantis has now signed 91 of the 190 bills sent to him from the Legislature. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. Florida Politics.

District bans Confederate flag: Indian River County School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to update the student code of conduct by banning the presence of the Confederate flag on campuses and school-related activities. Also prohibited in the code changes are symbols, writings and images associated with hate groups. The board is expected to finalize and approve the code of conduct July 21. TCPalm. WPTV.

Laptop contract audit: An audit will be conducted to look into mismanagement and ethical issues in the Broward County School District’s $81 million purchase of laptops. The Lenovo laptops were purchased in 2016 and have been criticized for being slow, with low battery life, small screens, keys falling off and more. Teachers, students and school board members often call the laptops, which were loaned out for remote learning, “Le No No’s.” The audit may expand to look into other technology purchases by former chief information officer Tony Hunter. Sun Sentinel.

Superintendent search: All five finalists for the Sarasota County School District superintendent’s job will be invited back for hour-long interviews with each board member between June 30 and July 2. “They were all such great candidates, I’m for bringing them all back,” said board member Jane Goodwin. All five board members included Marie Izquierdo, chief academic officer in Miami-Dade County; Gonzalo S. La Cava, chief of human resources in Palm Beach County; and Peter Licata, regional superintendent in Palm Beach County on their list of finalists. One board member left off Brennan Asplen III, deputy superintendent in St. Johns County, and two left off Keith Oswald, deputy superintendent in Palm Beach County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School dress code changes: The Orange County School Board has voted to do away with portions of the school dress code that many believe unfairly target girls. The changes are intended to be “gender-neutral” by eliminating some rules that kept girls from wearing tank tops in hot weather and assigned girls blame for “distracting” boys with their outfits. New rules say simply that tops must have straps, undergarments must not be visible and any holes or tears in pants must be below the knee. Orlando Sentinel. Masks will be optional for Bay County students when schools reopen, but restrictions on what masks can look like have been added to the district’s dress code. WMBB.

Education podcast: ReSchool Colorado executive director Amy Anderson talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about out-of-school learning and the growing inequity between families who can access the “shadow education system” and those who cannot. redefinED.

Police in schools: More school districts are ending the presence of police in schools, or considering it, in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing by a police officer in Minneapolis and subsequent protests. They question the effectiveness of having officers in schools, whether they make schools safer or traumatize students. Research shows that schools with officers have higher arrest and suspension rates, but is inconclusive on whether police reduce school crime or conflicts. There’s also a huge divide along racial lines. A survey in California schools showed that 61 percent of white students felt safer with police in their schools, but just 41 percent of black students felt the same. Chalkbeat. NPR.

Property trade: The Marion County School District has completed a property trade with a developer, swapping 20-acre parcels and giving the district a site it says it needs in the southwest part of the county for a future school. The property is on the edge of a planned housing development. Ocala Star-Banner.

Personnel moves: Harold Hilliard has been appointed athletic director at the private Maclay School in Tallahassee. He succeeds Jake von Scherrer, who is now the director of athletic enrichment. Tallahassee Democrat.

Instagram account investigated: Officials at a private Christian school in Jacksonville are investigating offensive remarks made on an Instagram account called “White at Providence.” The account links to the Providence School of Jacksonville website. WJXT.

Roof had been repaired: Less than five months ago, the Lee County School District paid $260,000 to repair a section of a roof at Bonita Springs Elementary School. Earlier this month it collapsed. The cause is still under investigation. WFTX.

Opinions on schools: A James Madison Institute researcher recently argued in a newspaper column that Florida is an attractive destination for Silicon Valley tech “refugees” who are being driven away by California’s taxes and regulations. Alas, the data say otherwise, and Florida’s education system might be the problem. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Two Florida students have been named among 10 finalists for the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for students between the ages of 12 and 14. Xavier Baquero-Iglesias, who attends the Community School in Collier County, and Sophia Weiner, who attends Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Brevard County, will compete virtually Oct. 12-13 for the championship. Another Florida student, Siddharth Kini of the Seminole Science Charter School in Seminole County, was named a state merit winner. Business Wire. Three Bay County high schools will be getting new computer science courses through a grant from Amazon. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff