Another student dies from virus, pool virus testing urged in schools, reopenings, graduations and more

Another student dies from coronavirus: An 11-year Miami boy this week became the third student in the state to die of complications from the coronavirus. Daequan Wimberly, who died Tuesday, is the youngest victim so far in the state, according to the Florida Department of Health. He was a student with special needs and had several underlying health issues. The other two student deaths were a 17-year-old girl from Lee County and a 17-year-old boy in Pasco County. Through June, more than 7,000 Floridians under the age of 18 had tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began in March, and at least 12 have had multi-system inflammatory syndrome, an inflammatory disorder that is believed to be linked to the virus. Miami Herald. WSVN. WPLG. WPTV. WPEC. WESH. Miami Herald. Boca News Now.

Pool testing urged: Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said she’d like to see Florida schools begin pool testing for the virus as a way to quickly expand testing in a cost-effective way. Pool testing is when samples from 5-10 people are tested together. If the test is negative, the whole group is cleared. If it’s positive, each individual would then be retested. “It can also be used in screening large numbers of school students,” Birx said. “You can put 10 into one tube. You can do a classroom with three tests.” Birx accompanied Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to Florida on Thursday. WKMG.

Reopening schools: One of the options Sarasota County School Board members are considering would start the school year as scheduled Aug. 10, but online, and reopening school classrooms sometime after Labor Day. In-person and online learning are the other options. The district is also planning to have a set group of teachers develop the online materials and teach the classes. But the president of the Sarasota teachers union has warned that some teachers will die if schools reopen. A decision on how to reopen will be made by the board July 14. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTVT. Flagler County students can attend classes in person or virtually when schools resume Aug. 10, Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt announced Thursday. Parents will soon be asked to choose an option for their child. WKMG. Palm Coast Observer. Baker County school officials have released their reopening plan, which includes in-person learning with physical distancing, frequent cleaning, and the optional use of masks, said Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson. Schools open Aug. 10. Baker County School District. The Hillsborough and St. Johns school districts are asking parents to choose how they want their children to attend school in the fall: in-person, online, or some combination. St. Johns also is considering checking temperatures and requiring students to wear masks on buses and at dismissal. WTVT. WFTS. WJXT. WTLV. St. Augustine Record. State Rep. Rene Plascencia, R-Titusville, is pushing the Orange County School District to release information about its reopening plan. He said he was worried parents and teachers have had too little input in creating the plan. Parents also said they are concerned that they don’t have the information they need for summer school, which starts in two weeks. Florida Politics. WOFL. Preparing the campus for the fall reopening already has cost the University of Central Florida $4.6 million. Orlando Sentinel.

Graduation plans: Brevard County School District officials have decided to go ahead with in-person, outdoor graduations between July 18 and 25. Safety measures will include temperature screenings, required masks, spaced-out seating, and no physical contact between students and staff. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. WKMG. Drive-through graduations will be held July 10 for Vero Beach High School at the Citrus Bowl and July 11 in front of Sebastian River High. Seniors will drive up, get out of the car and walk across a stage to receive a diploma, then drive away. “I want everyone to be excited,” said Indian River County Superintendent David Moore. “I want this to be something that our students look back on this crazy year and say it ended with a bang.” TCPalm. WPEC. Manatee County school officials have moved graduations outdoors to LECOM Park in Bradenton because of the spike in coronavirus cases. The ceremonies will be held July 27 through Aug. 1. WWSB.

More on the coronavirus: Brevard County health officials said they’ve seen a substantial decline in the number of children getting vaccinations for school since the pandemic began. Florida Today. Four teachers at a Lake County preschool, Wellington Academy IC Clermont, have tested positive for the coronavirus. WFTV.

Impact fees halted: A circuit court judge has issued a temporary injunction to halt the collection of educational impact fees for the Santa Rosa County School District. Circuit Court Judge Darlene Dickey said “the county failed to meet its burden of proof in establishing the calculation of the school impact fee was based on the most recent and localized data for both the costs of school facility construction and the cost of land.” The case was brought by the Home Builders Association of West Florida. A date for the next hearing has not been set. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Renaming a school: The Alachua County School District will hold two public meetings July 7 to get community input on the renaming of J.J. Finley Elementary School in Gainesville. The school board voted last month to change the name of the school, which was built in the 1930s and named for a Confederate general. Board members want to vote on a new name by Aug. 4. Gainesville Sun.

Superintendent search: The five finalists for the superintendent’s job in Sarasota County interviewed with the school board this week and also answered questions from the community. The board is expected to make a choice July 14. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School board elections: The four candidates for the Hillsborough County School Board District 1 seat answer questions about the district’s most pressing issues, improving reading scores, the achievement gap, charter schools and more. Gradebook. Four of the five candidates for the District 3 seat on the Manatee County School Board talked about accountability, the coronavirus, district finances and their priorities during a debate. The only candidate who wasn’t there was incumbent Dave Miner. Bradenton Herald.

Help for Gardiner students: The Legislature added another $42 million to the Gardiner Scholarship program for students with disabilities this year, bringing the total to about $190 million. It’s been a lifeline for the parents like Nancy Noya of Hialeah. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, administers the scholarship. redefinED.

Notable deaths: Jude Abrams, a longtime physical education teacher and coach at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, has died of complications from diabetes. She was 65. Sun Sentinel. Hector Echeverria, a math and computer science teacher at the Maritime and Science Technology Academy in Miami, was riding his bicycle at Virginia Key Park when he was struck and killed by a police car. He was 57. Miami Herald. Carrie Higginbotham, a 37-year-old math teacher at West Nassau High School, and her father were killed Thursday when a tree fell on their vehicle. WJXT. WTLV.

Opinions on schools: If schools weren’t considered safe when the novel coronavirus made its presence known in early March, they’re most certainly not safe now that we’re seeing stratospheric numbers of COVID-19 infections in Florida. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. Florida’s new academic standards are an improvement over Common Core in knowledge acquisition and guidance for teachers, and set a standard for other states to follow. Ze’ev Wurman, David Steiner, Ashley Berner and R. James Milgram, Independent Institute. The focus upon numbers as a justification for school choice has been damaging to the cause by distracting us from other more human effects of empowering parents. John E. Coons, redefinED. School vouchers should be limited to poorer kids who need options, not well-off families who have plenty of them. Tampa Bay Times. Will St. Lucie and Martin student go back to school this fall? Maybe they need to. Gil Smart, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Fifty-seven Tampa Bay area high school seniors have been named National Merit Scholarship finalists. Patch. Duncan Jurman, a 17-year-old student at NSU University School in Davie, has founded an environmental educational project called Bring Butterflies Back, Inspiring Youth to Protect Butterflies for Future Generations. Sun Sentinel.