DeSantis urges parents not to give in to fear, districts push own online options, delays and more

DeSantis: Don’t deprive kids: Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday encouraged parents not to let their fear of the coronavirus keep their children away from classrooms. “Our fight against COVID shouldn’t lead us to deprive our kids of the tools they need to succeed. The important thing to do is make sure our parents have a meaningful choice,” he said in an address to Floridians. His six-minute speech came on a day when the state reported 9,785 new cases of infection and 140 deaths, when many districts are announcing school reopening delays to get better prepared, and when many teachers are protesting reopenings because they fear for their health. DeSantis suggested that districts reassign those teachers to other jobs, and encouraged districts that want to delay the first day to “have at it.” News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. Tallahassee Democrat. WJXT. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. WFSU.

Money drives push on options: When central Florida school districts talk about online learning options for their students, they are promoting programs that will keep the students enrolled in their districts. The reason? Money. If students enroll in their district’s online programs, the per-student funding from the state continues to flow to the district. If students choose Florida Virtual School, the districts lose that funding. Orlando Sentinel. Fewer than half the parents of Orange and Seminole students have made their school learning choices, with the deadline noon Friday. Of those who have chosen, just 30 percent of Orange parents and 27 percent of Seminole’s picked in-school learning. Orlando Sentinel.

Reopening plans: Florida school boards are considering district reopening plans, which must be submitted to the Florida Department of Education by July 31 for approval. Here are the latest developments:

Miami-Dade County: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Wednesday that under the current coronavirus circumstances, it’s inappropriate to consider reopening schools to students in August. The district currently has an Aug. 24 start date, but Carvalho said Miami-Dade is the epicenter of COVID-19 and likened conditions in Miami-Dade now to those in China six months ago. He plans to make a final decision on reopening between July 29 and Aug. 3. Florida Politics.

Broward County: When classes resume Aug. 19, students will be learning exclusively online, Superintendent Robert Runcie confirmed Wednesday. There are two options: following along with the morning session, or the afternoon one. WSVN. WPLG. WFOR.

Palm Beach County: School board members have agreed to move the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31. The delay would give the district more time to train teachers on remote instruction methods, and for 82,000 laptops that have been ordered to arrive. It could also cut the amount of time students spend out of the classroom, since the district will start the year with online-only learning. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC.

Polk County: The McKeel Academy charter school in Lakeland will reopen on schedule Aug. 6, and offer students both in-person and remote learning options. Lakeland Ledger.

Seminole County: In a question-and-answer virtual forum with the public, school officials said middle and high schools student schedules will be adapted to cut down on the number of times students change classes, hallways will be one-way, and students will be required to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible. WFTV.

Volusia County: On Tuesday, school board members approved a delay in the start of schools to Aug. 31. But they’re already second-guessing themselves, saying they continue to worry about the safety of students. They’re considering pushing the start of in-person classes into September and opening next month with online-only learning. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG.

Manatee County: Nearly every district student is expected to have a computer to use if they choose online learning when schools resume, but 4,000 or more students still don’t have Internet access in their homes. Providing hotspots to give them access could cost as much as $1.4 million, said district chief technology officer Scott Hansen. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota County: About 67 percent of the parents who responded to the district’s survey said their children will attend their schools for in-person learning. About 26 percent want to use the virtual option in which they remotely follow their classes on their school’s schedule, and 7 percent plan to attend the Sarasota Virtual Program. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia County: The Diocesan Office for Catholic Schools in Escambia County has decided to delay the first day of school to Aug. 24. WEAR.

Alachua County: School board members approved a delay in the first day of school from Aug. 10 to 24. The change in the calendar sets the last day as June 14 instead of May 28. Gainesville Sun. Teachers are urging school board members to start school with online-only learning for nine weeks, then re-evaluate to see if conditions allow a safe return to classrooms. Gainesville Sun.

Martin County: The president of the teachers union said neither the Aug. 11 nor the proposed Aug. 25 school reopening dates are safe, and that the district should stick with remote learning until the coronavirus numbers decline. The school board approved the Aug. 25 school start this week, but said if the union doesn’t agree the district will revert to Aug. 11. The board votes next Tuesday. TCPalm.

Citrus County: The school board voted Wednesday to move the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20, and to require everyone on school campuses to wear masks. Students who don’t wear masks will be transferred to the Citrus Virtual School. Citrus County Chronicle.

Nassau County: School board members are expected to discuss and vote today on Superintendent Kathy Burns’ reopening plan, which includes a later start date and options for in-person or one of two virtual programs. WJXT.

Walton County: The first day of school has been delayed a week to Aug. 17, Superintendent A. Russell Hughes announced Wednesday. The extra time will be used for training, preparing schedules to thin congestion in schools, and getting newly received computers loaded with online learning programs. WEAR. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Monroe County: The district’s school reopening plan includes in-person and two virtual learning options, and a requirement that face masks be worn with break allowed. Superintendent Theresa Axford cautioned that the plan could change as coronavirus conditions do. Key West Citizen.

Bradford County: The reopening plan includes three learning options for students: in-person, the Bradford Select virtual school and a new addition that allows students to remotely attend live classes. Superintendent Stacey Creighton said she would present the plan to the school board Monday. WJXT.

Fall sports delays: More Florida school districts have decided to delay the start of fall sports practices and workouts, even though the FHSAA decided this week to allow practices to start July 27: Pinellas. Pasco. Santa Rosa. Bay. Palm Beach. St. Johns. Clay. Flagler. Collier. Lee. Citrus. Escambia. Martin. Sarasota. The FHSAA board of directors meets again today to revisit the controversial decision. One district, Miami-Dade County, has even threatened to withdraw from the group to protest the “inequities and limitations” it will create for the county’s athletes. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel.

More on the coronavirus: A 9-year-old girl from Putnam County has become the youngest coronavirus-related death in the state. She’s the fifth child under the age of 17 to die as a result of COVID-19. WJXT. Miami Herald. About 31 percent of Americans said they’re opposed to sending children back into school classrooms this fall under any circumstances, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs. Associated Press. About 70 percent of Tampa Bay area residents don’t think schools should resume in-person learning yet, according to a new survey. Florida Politics. The average U.S. school will spend an additional $1.8 million this year on health and safety measures to combat the coronavirus, according to a study by the School Superintendents Association and the Association of School Business Officials International. Education Dive.

District budgets: The proposed budget for the Sarasota County School District’s next fiscal year includes a 2.7 percent increase in operations spending, mostly for raises and benefits, a slight boost in property taxes and the withdrawal of $22 million from the reserve fund to make ends meet. The board will review the proposal today. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent search: Escambia County School Board members have accepted the recommendation of a citizens advisory committee that selected six semifinalists for the superintendent’s job. Each of the semifinalists will now provide written and video responses to five questions from the school board, which will then decide whom to interview in-person next month. The semifinalists are: Keith Leonard, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources; Marques Stewart, the freshman academy principal at an Atlanta high school; Earl Johnson, the executive director of leadership and operations for the Flagler County School District; Keith Rittel, superintendent of the Provo City, Utah, district; Timothy Smith, executive area director for the Orange County School District; and Vincent Cotter, cofounder of the Exemplary Schools Organization consulting company. The person selected will replace Malcolm Thomas, who is retiring in November. Pensacola News Journal.

School board elections: A candidate for the Orange County School Board has filed a lawsuit that claims his opponent doesn’t live in the district he wants to represent. Michael Scott is challenging the eligibility of state Rep. Bruce Antone to run for the District 5 seat. Orlando Sentinel. Candidates for the District 3 and District 5 seats on the Indian River County School Board talk about the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on schools, the achievement gap, budget cuts and more. TCPalm. District 2 and District 4 candidates for the St. Lucie County School Board talk about reopening schools, security, career education and more. TCPalm. Charlotte County School Board candidates talked about reopening schools and education equity during a forum this week. Charlotte Sun.

Notable deaths: Sidney Bell, a longtime driver’s education teacher and coach at Jewett and Winter Haven high schools in Polk County, has died at the age of 87. Lakeland Ledger.

FFA being phased out: Land O’Lakes High School in Pasco County is ending its Future Farmers of America program after the next school year. School officials said enrollment is the program is down 48 percent in the past four years. Students still active in the program have started an online petition to try to save it, and have collected more than 2,000 signatures. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: Private schools and charters aren’t only taking forgivable federal loan money that should go to more meritorious institutions, but they’re also not giving a public accounting of how the money is being used. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff