Hillsborough agrees to demand, lawsuit hearing, audit faults Broward, 80 teachers laid off and more

Hillsborough changes course: Hillsborough County students will attend school online-only for a week, starting Aug. 24, and then schools will reopen Aug. 31 for students who chose to attend classes in-person, Superintendent Addison Davis announced Thursday. The Florida Department of Education rejected a plan approved by the school board last week that would have opened the academic year with four weeks of online-only learning, saying the district had to offer an in-person option or risk losing $23 million a month in state funding. The DOE also rejected several other options Davis offered. Davis said he was disappointed, but decided to give in to the state’s demands because the threat of losing up to $200 million could “bankrupt this organization.” Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. WFLA. WFTS. WTSP. Bay News 9. Florida Politics. WUSF.

Lawsuit hearing today: After attorneys from both sides outlined their arguments Thursday in a lawsuit challenging the state’s order to reopen schools, a Leon County judge scheduled a motion-to-dismiss hearing today at 11 a.m. If Circuit Judge Charles Dodson decides not to dismiss the case, as the state has requested, an injunction hearing will begin Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Dodson also scheduled court time Tuesday for mediation. The Florida Education Association alleges that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the order to open schools for in-person learning this month is a violation of the state constitution, which guarantees students the right to a “safe and secure” public education. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. WTSP. WFSU. A survey commissioned by the FEA shows that 77 percent of parents think it’s dangerous to send their children to school, and that 72 percent worry their children will bring the coronavirus home if they attend classes in school. In another survey, from the USF School of Public Affairs, almost 75 percent of respondents said they supported keeping schools closed for the fall semester. WTXL. WTSP. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service.

Sports seasons in balance: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors meets today to decide if and when the fall high school sports season will begin. Several options are before the board: Go ahead with the season, with practice starting Aug. 24 and competition Sept. 4, with state playoffs; go ahead with the season, but without playoffs; delay the fall sports season to Nov. 30, and delay and condense the winter and spring seasons; or delay the start of fall sports practices to Oct. 12, with corresponding delays in the winter and fall seasons. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. and will be streamed by the NFHS Network. Lakeland Ledger. Tampa Bay Times. Daily Commercial. WTXL.

Around the state: Fifty school districts have had their reopening plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. The latest are Holmes, Lafayette and the FSU Lab School. Here are more developments on school reopenings and other news from the state’s districts and private schools:

Broward: Repairs for about 200 Broward County school roofs have languished because the district has been using unqualified contractors whose plans are being rejected by building inspectors, according to an audit conducted by the RSM accounting firm and confirmed in a separate analysis by the district. The result? Children sitting in moldy, leaky, flooded classrooms for years. “That should never ever happen. It should be 30 or 60 days at the most (to get permits for the work),” said Robert Hamberger, the district’s chief building inspector. “This is ridiculous. This doesn’t happen in private industry.” Board members were also unhappy. “We’ve got to figure out where the breakdown is. It’s unconscionable to me that we could be having a conversation about roofing permits that take upwards of a year,” said Heather Brinkworth. Sun Sentinel. Q&A about how to get connected for the first day of online learning Aug. 19. Sun Sentinel.

Orange: The school board scheduled an emergency meeting Monday to consider “potential revisions” to the district’s reopening plan. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he expected to see modifications, but board members said they don’t know what Demings is talking about. They said the meeting is to hear the views of their medical advisory committee. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL. A 9-year-old at the private Circle Christian School in Winter Garden has tested positive for the coronavirus. He was in a class with eight other students, and those students and the teacher have been asked to quarantine and get tested. School officials said everyone in the class wore masks except during recess. WKMG. WFTV. More than 200 children under the age of 18 have contracted the coronavirus in Orange County in the past two weeks, according to health officials. WKMG.

Palm Beach: A judge has ruled that a Palm Beach County principal should not have been fired for his 2018 comments about the Holocaust. Judge Robert S. Cohen said former Spanish River High School principal William Latson should have instead been reprimanded and reassigned for telling a parent he “can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.” Cohen also said the district should pay Latson back wages and give him a job worthy of his experience. The issue now goes back to the school board, which voted 5-2 to fire Latson. Sun Sentinel.

Lee: The school district has temporarily ended its food distribution program that began in March when schools were closed for the pandemic and continued through the summer. The pause is needed to prepare for the resumption of the program when schools reopen Aug. 31, according to officials. WBBH.

Collier: When schools reopen Aug. 31, students will be greeted blue stickers on floors the urge them to keep their distance, signs everywhere detailing the rules for attendance such as wearing face masks, hand sanitizer throughout buildings, desks spaced apart in classrooms and more. District officials previewed the changes Thursday. Naples Daily News. WFTX.

Leon: The Florida A&M Developmental Research School is delaying the start of its school year from Aug. 19 to Aug. 31 to give the staff more time to prepare. The lab school is run by the university and is a district of its own. Tallahassee’s other university-run lab school, Florida State University School, begins remote learning Aug. 19 and in-person instruction Aug. 31. WFSU.

Alachua: A $15.1 million renovation has begun at Metcalfe Elementary School in Gainesville. New buildings, including a two-story classroom structure, will go up in open space on the east side of the campus, allowing construction to continue while the school is open. The art/music, administration/media center and cafeteria also will be upgraded. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: Eighty district teachers were laid off and 80 more were reassigned from classrooms to virtual positions to due declining enrollment, Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said Thursday. “Our enrollment is significantly down,” Wyrosdick said. “Without enrollment, we do not need as many teachers. At present, we are more than 1,200 students below our projected numbers. In addition, 5,000 students chose to be taught virtually. Virtual classes are larger and this reduces the need for teachers as well.” Schools reopen Aug. 24. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Charlotte: The principal of Punta Gorda Middle School and two Port Charlotte High School football players have contracted the coronavirus, district officials have announced. The players, who are brothers, will be quarantined for 14 days. The principal, Tina Dionisio, said she is symptom-free and that her husband Steve, the district’s superintendent, was tested and is negative. Schools reopen Aug. 31. Charlotte Sun. WINK. WBBH.

Putnam: A 47-year-old district employee has died of complications from the coronavirus. Elias Ramirez taught at Miller Middle School for several years before taking a job as the dean of students. WJXT.

Suwannee: Three teachers and a student have tested positive for the coronavirus since schools opened Monday, according to district officials. All have begun a period of quarantine. WTXL. WCTV.

Wakulla: Teachers complimented students on their masks and emphasized the need for social distancing as schools reopened Thursday. The dropoff line was busier than usual, delaying school for many, because some parents were reluctant to send their children on a bus. That was expected, said Superintendent Robert Pearce. “We may realign our routing around some of our schools and do things a little bit differently to kind of speed things up so we can get our buses in and out and at the same time accommodate our parents,” he said. WFSU.

Calhoun: The first day of school was Wednesday, and Superintendent Darryl Taylor said students have been receptive to the new rules. “At the school sites, when the buses were unloading, the kids were getting off with masks and the masks have become fashion statements,” he said. “Everybody is kind of personalizing and that’s an extension of their personalities. It has gone well so far.” WMBB.

Hamilton: Superintendent Rex Mitchell describes the first days of school, from students voluntarily wearing masks to half-filled classrooms to technology problems to teachers excited that students are back and more. It’s his 41st year in education, and he said, “Believe me, I’ve heard a lot more complaints from the first day of school in years past than I have this year.” Florida Phoenix.

More on the coronavirus: Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that invoking the raid that killed Osama bin Laden while promoting the reopening of schools was not about the danger faced. “It was more about inspiration and about figuring way to get it done than anything about comparing the danger to that,” DeSantis said. “Obviously that’s a much different situation.” Palm Beach Post. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is recommending that schools should find ways to hold classes, recess and lunches outdoors. He also suggested students wear masks as much as possible and keep windows on buses open. Associated Press.

School elections: Suzann Stoutamire, a candidate for the District 4 seat on the Liberty County School, has died at the age of 60. Supervisor of elections Grant Conyers said her name will be on ballots because they’ve already been printed. WMBB. Charter school companies are helping pay for ads that call Orange County School Board’s District 6 incumbent, Karen Castor Dentel, “public enemy #1,” and someone who opposes school choice and “helps keep kids in failing schools.” She has voted against two of the three charter school applications before the board, including one from Charter Schools USA, which contributed $20,500 to the political action committee that paid for the ads. Charter Schools USA declined to comment. Orlando Sentinel. Here’s a look at the candidates running for school board seats in the central Florida districts of Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia. WKMG. Previewing the three candidates in the race for the Santa Rosa County school superintendent’s job. Tim Wyrosdick, who has been in the job since 2008, is retiring. WEAR.

Employees and the law: A Pinellas County school resource officer has been accused by his his current wife and ex-wife of abusing his child, drugs and alcohol in their requests for a court to order injunctions for protection against him. A sheriff’s spokesman said that deputy Timothy Crane, who has been the resource officer at Palm Harbor Middle School, has surrendered his gun and will be reassigned until the issue is resolved in the courts. He denied the allegations. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: I haven’t had much luck trying to make sense of Gov. DeSantis’ pairing of Navy SEALs and Florida school teachers. I would liken sending Florida’s kids back to in-person schooling during a raging pandemic to Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg — an ill-advised march of thousands during broad daylight into a known and deadly peril. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.  Is reopening schools worth the loss of even one child? Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. School districts in our area and across the country will only be as functional as substitute teachers allow them to be. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. COVID-19 has made it undeniable: We need school choice. Neal McCluskey, Real Clear Policy.