Governor insists schools can reopen safely, districts’ plans, 11-year-old dies from virus and more

DeSantis says schools can reopen safely: While some Florida school districts are balking at complying with the state’s order to reopen classrooms five days a week for students in August, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that children should be in classrooms to minimize the education gap caused by remote learning. “Educating our kids is absolutely essential,” DeSantis said. “I have no doubt we can do this safely. If you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.” DeSantis has three children too young for school, but said, “I would not hesitate putting them in, in terms of the risk because fortunately, the risk for kids is extremely low.” DeSantis did not address if districts would be penalized for noncompliance. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. WTLV. WPTV. WPEC. WJXT. WFLA. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. School reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not be rewritten, said director Dr. Robert Redfield. After President Trump criticized the guidelines this week for being “very tough and expensive,” Vice President Mike Pence said they would be changed because “the president said … we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough.” Redfield said the CDC would simply be issuing additional reference documents about monitoring symptoms and face mask use. PBS. WJXT. USA Today. There are significant health benefits to having students attend schools just a couple of days a week, according to a report funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The secretary of the department, Betsy DeVos, said this week that there was “no excuse” for schools not to reopen five days a week, and she warned that federal aid could be withheld from schools that don’t. Chalkbeat.

Reopening schools: Pinellas County’s tentative school reopening plan includes everyone wearing masks, gym classes being held outdoors, virtual parent-teacher meetings, two options for virtual learning as well as in-person classes, and more. Gradebook. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS. Students will be required to wear face masks when social distancing is not possible and but only strongly encouraged to wear them otherwise when schools restart in Brevard County, according to the district’s tentative reopening plan. Four learning options will be offered: in-person attendance, and a choice among three remote learning plans. Florida Today. WKMG. Students in Manatee County will be required to wear masks indoors at school, and can choose to attend classes, learn online or split time between the classroom and home for schooling. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Nassau County students will have three options for learning when schools resume next month, and the district is considering requiring students and staff to wear masks at all times. A district survey completed by 5,281 parents disclosed that about 830 students would be switching to online classes. WJXT. Clay County schools are offering students four learning options. WJXT. Flagler County students can take classes in-person or remotely and will have the option of wearing masks, according to the district reopening plan released this week. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Leon County parents said the remote learning option they’re being given for their children, Digital Academy, does not have all the courses available for students who will return to schools. District officials said they won’t know the full academy curriculum until they know how many families have chosen that option. Tallahassee Democrat. About 70 percent of Pasco County parents have chosen the in-person learning option during the district’s survey. Tampa Bay Times. Citrus County students now have until July 17 to choose whether they will return to schools in August or register for remote learning. Citrus County Chronicle.

More on the coronavirus: Yansi Ayala, an 11-year-old girl from Broward County, has died of complications from the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health. She had multiple underlying health conditions, including heart disease and cerebral palsy, officials said, and is the fourth known Florida victim between the ages of 11 and 17. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WESH. Miami Herald. Two Leon County principals have tested positive for the coronavirus. Jimbo Jackson, who leads the Fort Braden School and is also a county commissioner, and his wife Beth Jackson, principal at Hawks Rise Elementary School, said their symptoms are mild. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Eighteen Orange County school employees have tested positive for the coronavirus and are on medical leave, district officials announced. WKMG. A Volusia County summer school student has tested positive for the coronavirus, shutting down the voluntary prekindergarten program at Deltona’s Timbercrest Elementary School. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A new survey by Education Next concludes that 71 percent of parents thought their children learned less after the coronavirus closed schools, but 72 percent said they were satisfied with the instruction and activities provided by their schools. redefinED. The Leon County School District has suspended summer band camps because of the pandemic. WTXL. WCTV. Enrollment in the Flagler County School District’s virtual school, iFlagler, has grown from 55 students last year to 250 by the first week in July. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Clay County School District liability waiver against coronavirus infections for groups that use district facilities has been posted to social media out of context, creating an online stir among those who think the district is trying to dodge responsibility if its students get sick. Florida Times-Union.

Checking the books: A consultant has been brought in to examine the Hillsborough County School District’s finances. Superintendent Addison Davis ordered the review after school board members were stunned and angry to learn this week that the district’s main reserve account shrank from $150 million to $100 million in the past year. “As we close out the 2019-2020 fiscal year, and prepare the budget for 2020-2021, I have serious concerns about maintaining the district’s fiscal position, particularly in light of the impact of COVID on our system,” Davis wrote in an email to board members. Gradebook.

Students and suicide: Sixteen percent of Duval County middle school students and 20 percent of the girls have attempted suicide at some time in their lives, according to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior survey. Asian and Hispanic students also reported suicide attempts at the same 20 percent rate, compared with 15 percent of black students and 13 percent of white ones. WTLV. WJAX. WJXT. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics.

Education podcasts: Tom Arnett, a senior research fellow in education for the Christensen Institute, talks about how COVID-19 has accelerated changes in public education, using technology to boost education productivity and reduce inequity, and more with Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog. redefinED.

School board elections: Candidates for the District 3 and District 5 seats on the Indian River County School Board talk about their campaigns and what they would like to accomplish if elected. TCPalm.

Farm sues school district: The Lee County School District is being sued by a company that lost its contract to provide food for the district after the CEO declared that the coronavirus and Black Lives Matter movement were hoaxes and that George Floyd, killed by Minneapolis police, was a “disgraceful career criminal.” Alfie Oakes, CEO of Oakes Farms, said the termination “was done in retaliation” against Oakes and his company for his comments “on matters of public concern.” He’s asking for $50 million in damages. Naples Daily News. WINK.

Employees and the law: A Manatee County school employee has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. Police said they found pornographic images of children ages 6 to 13 on the computer of Timothy C. Glover, who works at Bradenton’s Haile Middle School as a “physical education tech.”  Bradenton Herald. WFLA.

Four teachers cleared: Four Santa Rosa County teachers who work at Pace High School and were under investigation for undisclosed reasons have been cleared, according to district officials. Scott Denny, Timothy Dillashaw, Stephanie Jernigan-Watson and Valerie Wright have returned to work. Lisa Dillashaw remains under investigation for social media posts about race relations and the Black Lives Matter movement. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: The Palm Beach County School Board, under pressure from the state and federal governments, did the right thing by voting not to reopen our local schools next month. Palm Beach Post. It’s a mistake if the state pushes too hard for a five-day-a-week in-person option. Even if it’s a goal, it shouldn’t be a requirement. The goal should be classroom education for whom it is safe. Tampa Bay Times. Why not push the school start date back several weeks, into late August or even September, to give new measures to fight the coronavirus a chance to work? TCPalm.  Let’s take reasonable precautions and safety measures. Let’s teach and guide and encourage our children. But by all means, let’s allow our kids to be kids and go to school. Jenny Frazer, Gainesville Sun. Investing in disadvantaged children’s savings accounts has the potential to reduce wealth and educational inequality and promote equal opportunity. Dan Lips, redefinED.

Student enrichment: A U.S. Coast Guard Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program is being planned for Pinellas Park High School in Pinellas County. It will be one of just three programs in the nation. The program could begin accepting students in the fall of 2021. St. Pete Catalyst. Tampa Bay Times.