School reopening plans, more districts delay start dates, rules for graduation, vaping suit and more

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

Hillsborough County: The district’s school reopening plan includes mandatory masks, which will be issued to students, social distancing in classrooms whenever possible and on buses, options for in-person or virtual learning, no mass gatherings such as assemblies and pep rallies, no sharing of materials, temperature checks for visitors and staff but not students, and more. Superintendent Addison Davis said many details are still to be decided, but he intends to follow the state mandate to reopen schools for students to attend classes five days a week, starting in August. The school board is expected to vote next Thursday on the plan, and on Davis’ proposal to delay the first day of school until Aug. 24. Gradebook. WTVT. WFLA. WFTS. WUSF.

Orange County: The school board is expected to vote today on the proposed school reopening plan, which could include pushing the start date from Aug. 10 to Aug. 21. Learning options are in-person, self-directed virtual schooling or remote learning that follows the regular schedule of classes. WKMG. WFTV.

Palm Beach County: The start of the school year will be delayed from the scheduled Aug. 10, Superintendent Donald Fennoy said Thursday, but for how long is uncertain. The school board discussed starting Aug. 24 or even pushing the first day into September. Fennoy said the district is preparing options for the board to consider at its meeting Wednesday. When it does return, the district plans to start with remote learning only and phase in the return of students. WPTV. WPEC.

Duval County: Citing a rise in coronavirus cases, the school board delayed a vote on the district’s school reopening plan and also wants the district to consider pushing the start of school later in August. Board members said they want to delay the start of school so teachers can get training on how to teach more effectively in a remote learning situation. Superintendent Diana Greene had proposed keeping the start date at Aug. 10, but said a delay to Aug. 24 was possible. The plan, released earlier this week, called for elementary students to return to class fulltime on Day 1, but for all other students to split their time between schools and remote learning until after Labor Day. Greene will have a revised plan for the board to consider next Thursday. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Volusia County: The first day of school will be postponed for at least a week, district officials said Thursday. The first day was to have been Aug. 17, but all five school board members favor a later start. District officials said they’re working on options for starting Aug. 24 or 31. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Here are summaries of the plans for reopening in seven central Florida school districts. WESH.

St. Johns County: Superintendent Tim Forson said there’s a good chance the school board will vote to delay the start of school by up to two weeks. He also said the policy on wearing masks is still being worked on, but that students will likely have to wear them most or all of the day. WJXT. Enrollment in the St. Johns Virtual School has jumped from 151 students last year to 557 so far for the next school year. WTLV.

Marion County: No students will attend a school until Aug. 24, the school board has decided. What is yet to be determined is whether online-only learning will begin before that, perhaps as early as Aug. 10, so that teachers can continue to be paid. The board also decided that face coverings will be required for all students, staff and visitors at least until Oct. 28. The board’s final vote on the reopening plan and the start date is expected July 28. Ocala Star-Banner.

Alachua County: The first day of school has been pushed back from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24, and the last day moves from May 28 to June 14. The school board approved the changes, and also the school reopening plan that requires masks for students and staff, and offers in-person or one of two virtual learning options. Gainesville Sun. WGFL.

Franklin County: Schools are expected to open on schedule Aug. 10, with in-person and virtual learning options. Masks will be encouraged but not required, and social distancing guidelines will be followed as much as possible. About 81 percent of parents who responded to the district’s survey said they planned to send their children back to classrooms. Apalachicola Times.

Colleges and universities: Florida Southern College will reopen Sept. 1 with traditional classroom learning. Students at the Lakeland school will wear masks, maintain social distancing and undergo random temperature checks. Instructors will meet and advise students remotely, and resident halls will no longer have triple or quadruple occupancy. Lakeland Ledger.

Graduation plans: Graduating Manatee County high school seniors and their guests will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines during ceremonies in late July and early August at LECOM Park. Each student will receive just two tickets for guests. All graduations are scheduled in the mornings to avoid the heat and afternoon storms. Bradenton Herald.

More on the coronavirus: Teachers around the state continue to protest the reopening of schools because of safety concerns. Pensacola News Journal. Lakeland Ledger. Tallahassee Democrat. WBBH. WGCU. The Florida Association of School Resource Officers is going ahead with its convention next week in Orlando. WKMG. The Osceola County School District has discontinued its free meals distribution program to begin preparations for the new school year. WMFE. Workers and students at Suntree Elementary School in Melbourne are busy preparing an outdoor classroom to help the school comply with social distancing guidelines this fall. WOFL. Many Florida private schools turned to summer schools to offset learning losses from the coronavirus pandemic and the summer slide. redefinED. School reopening guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t be released this week as earlier announced. No reason for the delay was given. NPR. Experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are urging U.S. communities to reconsider openings schools before the number of coronavirus cases begins to decline. Politico.

District joins vaping suit: Broward County School Board members have agreed to join 100 other U.S. school districts in a lawsuit against JUUL Laboratories and Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. The suit alleges the companies are targeting children with vaping products, and the districts want compensation for the money they’ve spent on counselors, monitoring and materials to educate students about the dangers of the products. Sun Sentinel.

Superintendent search: Forty-two people have applied for the Martin County School District superintendent’s job. Current Superintendent Laurie Gaylord’s term ends in November and she is retiring. In 2018, county voters agreed to make the superintendent’s job an appointed one. The citizens advisory committee will begin to consider the candidates July 23, and school board members hope to make their choice by the end of September. TCPalm.

School elections: Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend has been labeled a racist in an increasingly bitter re-election campaign. Former Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, an African-American and a supporter of Townsend’s election opponent William Allen, recently likened Townsend to the Minneapolis police officer who’s accused of killing George Floyd, and has blamed Townsend and fellow board member Lisa Miller for driving Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd, also an African-American, into retiring. Townsend and Miller, both white, rejected the charges, and Fields later apologized. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: County health directors should be able to offer their advice. School board members should make the best decisions for their students and teachers. And, unless there’s a legitimate reason, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran should not second-guess them. Sun Sentinel. Much is unknown or little understood about the virus and how it affects children, so time may be the only way to determine the best approach to return to schools. But we believe the on-campus option, required by a mandate from the Florida Department of Education, is a vital piece of a return to normal life. Naples Daily News. State leaders should send a message that it is not acceptable for educators, administrators and school employees to get sick or die as a result of doing their jobs. Stephanie Hayes, Tampa Bay Times.