Judge vacates stay in school reopening lawsuit, Hillsborough may reconsider its plan, and more

Judge vacates stay: A Leon County circuit judge has vacated the automatic stay on his ruling Monday that the state’s order to reopen schools to students in August was unconstitutional. The state appealed his decision Tuesday, which put a hold on the ruling going into effect until the appeal was heard. But Wednesday, the Florida Education Association, which filed the suit against the state’s order, asked Judge Charles Dodson to lift the stay. He did so Thursday, nullifying the state’s reopening order. He also criticized the state for misrepresenting the temporary injunction he issued Monday. “It did not order that Florida’s schools statewide be closed,” Dodson wrote. “This court does not have authority to enter such an order. What the order did, for the reasons stated, is require that local school districts be given authority under their individual circumstances to open or close the local schools, based on local conditions.” The state is expected to appeal this ruling as well. All but a few Florida districts have either started school already or plan to by Monday. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Gradebook. WTXL. Donald Trump Jr. has jumped into the middle of the court battle, on the side of the state and against a “liberal” judge and the “activist” teachers union. In a Fox News opinion column, Trump wrote, “Leon County Judge Charles Dodson, who is set to retire in January, decided to put the interests of union bosses ahead of the state’s Constitution, in violation of the separation of powers and ahead of Florida’s children.” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran retweeted the column, calling it “spot on.” FEA president Fedrick Ingram said, “Donald Jr. has failed to grasp the issues on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to start,” and suggested he read Dodson’s ruling. News Service of Florida.

Virtual enrollments up, teachers needed: The number of students attending some districts’ virtual schools has exploded this year because of the pandemic. In Pinellas County, the increase is 2,226 percent. In Sarasota it’s 1,417 percent, and it’s 1,172 percent in Hillsborough and 933 percent in Pasco. That growth has increased the demand for teachers, for both online and in-person instruction. Tampa Bay area school districts have hundreds of jobs still open for teachers, as well as some for paraprofessionals and bus drivers. WFTS.

Private school aid blocked: A second federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of Education to quit enforcing rules on distributing federal coronavirus relief aid to schools. James Donato, a judge for the Northern District of California, said the rules conflict with the law. “An executive agency like the department has no authority to rewrite Congress’s plain and unambiguous commands under the guise of interpretation,” Donato wrote. The department gave state school districts the choice of providing aid through a a formula based on poverty or enrollment. Both required the public districts to send aid to private schools. The first ruling was issued last week in a Washington state case, and this one affects California, Michigan and the Chicago and New York City school districts. It’s unclear if the decisions apply to every state. Chalkbeat.

Around the state: Gov. Ron DeSantis said a report from the Florida Department of Health that linked coronavirus cases to schools “is not necessarily accurate” and is still being reviewed. The report was released by accident earlier this week. “It was acting like this was something that was triggered by the school year, which is totally not true,” DeSantis said Thursday. “If you take some of those cases at face value, those would have been infections that would have happened long before that.” Here are other developments on school reopenings and more news from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: The district returns Monday with online-only learning until coronavirus conditions improve enough to resume in-person instruction. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the process will begin slowly. “First week, it relies on an introduction to online learning,” he said. “It’s not really subject specific. So that every single teacher and every single student once again masters” what they know in the learning platform. WFOR.

Hillsborough: School board members will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss the district’s reopening plan after a judge ruled Thursday to vacate the stay that went into effect when the state appealed the judge’s decision that its school reopening order was unconstitutional. Hillsborough wanted to open the school year Monday with online-only learning, but changed course after the state rejected the plan and threatened to withhold funding if the district didn’t open classrooms for students in August. WTSP. WFTS. WFLA. WTVT. Bay News 9. Superintendent Addison Davis’ lawyer denied an allegation by the First Amendment Foundation that Davis violated the state’s Sunshine Law by holding one-on-one meetings with school board members about the district’s school reopening plan. Jeffrey Gibson said that the calls were “briefings,” and that the Florida Supreme Court has ruled they don’t fall under the Sunshine Law. Creative Loafing. The principal at Spoto High School and other front officer workers have gone into quarantine after three positive coronavirus cases were reported on campus. Gradebook. Davis said the district is considering what percentage of coronavirus positive test results could force the closure of schools. “We do see some school districts using 15-20 percent and we are going to probably stay within that bubble,” he said this week. But he also said he wants to give parents a choice, so a more limited approach to quarantines will also be considered. WUSF.

Orange: More than 100 students and staff are under quarantine after being exposed to one of the 36 students or staff who have tested positive for the coronavirus. But Dr. Raul Pino, the Florida Department of Health’s county officer, said there is no evidence that the virus was transmitted on any school campuses, since in-person classes just started this week. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV. WKMG. WOFL. The district is expected to receive 1,000 rapid coronavirus testing kits and machines that read the tests next week. WMFE.

Palm Beach: Few of the safety measures being used in county schools when they reopen are extending to school buses. Students will be told to wear masks but drivers can’t refuse to allow them on the bus if they don’t. Social distancing guidelines won’t be followed, and no partitions have been built between seats or the driver and the students. Drivers won’t be allowed to wear face shields, and windows won’t be opened. Drivers and school board members said they’re worried about safety, but district officials said there is little they can do because of logistical and financial considerations, and transportation regulations. Palm Beach Post. Schools open Monday with remote learning. WPEC.

Duval: More than 11,800 K-12 students who didn’t start school as scheduled Monday were contacted and have returned this week, according to district officials. But another 9,700 who enrolled have yet to show up at school or log in online. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX. The new school calendar has been released, with adjustments after the decision was made to start school Aug. 20 instead of Aug. 10. WTLV.

Polk: Four new cases of the coronavirus have been reported. One of the cases was a person who traveled to both Chain of Lakes Elementary School and Denison Middle School in Winter Haven. Other schools affected were Jewett School of the Arts in Winter Haven, Purcell Elementary in Mulberry and Citrus Ridge Academy in Davenport. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Osceola Middle School has become the seventh in the county to report a positive coronavirus test. The staff member’s positive test led to the quarantining of students and staff from six classrooms. Florida Politics.

Brevard: The Indian mascot of Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School will be retired, school officials notified school parents this week. A committee made up of students, teachers, administrators and community members unanimously agreed it was time for a change. A review process will now begin that could take up to a year before a new name is chosen. Florida Today.

Osceola: Photos of teachers who weren’t wearing masks in classrooms at Poinciana High School in Kissimmee were sent to a TV station this week. School officials said they are investigating. Wearing a mask on campus is mandatory, and violations will be treated as a dress code violation. WESH.

Volusia: Schools reopen Monday. WOFL. A traffic light has been installed on International Speedway Boulevard near the entrances of Mainlands High School and Daytona State College to improve pedestrian safety. WKMG.

Collier: Schools reopen Monday, with about 58 percent of the district’s students expected to return to classrooms for face-to-face instruction. WFTX. WBBH.

Lake: A man armed with a flare gun and drugs jumped a fence to enter the Leesburg High School property on Thursday and was arrested after a school guardian called Leesburg police. Jabari Scott, 30, was accused of providing false ID to law enforcement, trespassing on school property, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon and drug possession with intent to sell. No one was injured. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH.

St. Johns: Up to three substitute teachers and at least two nurses will be assigned to each school when classes begin Monday, said district spokeswoman Christina Langston. Superintendent Tim Forson said the substitutes will be on-site for at least the first month of the school year. “So that whatever the need is, whatever the demand is, we will have that set of hands,” he said. “These are also substitutes that, typically, the school is very comfortable with and has some experience with so they have a comfort level.” WJXT. St. Augustine Record.

Sarasota: Schools reopen Monday, with about 70 percent of the district’s students returning to classrooms for face-to-face instruction. Plexiglass shields have been installed to separate desks, hallways are now one-way and masks and sanitizing materials will be located throughout schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: Twenty-seven elementary and charter schools will each receive 25 backpacks filled with school supplies that was be distributed to students based on parent requests and school recommendations. The “Stuff the Bus” program was organized by military veterans. Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: The four finalists for the superintendent’s job answered questions Thursday from school board members and the public. Final interviews with with the board are today, and the board will name a new superintendent Tuesday. The person selected will replace Malcolm Thomas, who is retiring. NorthEscambia.com.

Leon: Schools reopen Monday, with about half of students returning to classrooms and half learning remotely. WCTV. WTXL. The district is partnering with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and Florida State to set up a coronavirus test site at Lively Technical College that can turn around test results in about 72 hours. WTXL. The county bus service, StarMetro, is offering any K-12 student with a valid student ID card free rides during the fall semester. WTXL.

Okaloosa: Construction is expected to start next week on the new Liza Jackson Preparatory School on the site of the old YMCA in Fort Walton Beach. The charter school’s new two-story building will have an additional 16,000 square feet of classroom space. The school has been in a rented building for 20 years. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Santa Rosa: With more families opting to home-school their children or have them attend virtual school, the number of students in the district is declining. As of Aug. 20, Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick told school board members, there were 2,071 fewer elementary students than expected, 884 fewer in middle school and 352 fewer in high school. Some of that is offset by students attending remotely through the district’s program. But if the numbers don’t change, enrollment would be down by about 1,000, which would mean the district would lose $7.6 million in state funding. Gulf Breeze News.

Bay: The district has reported its first coronavirus case, of a student riding a school bus. Those who had close contact with the student have been asked for quarantine for 14 days, and the students affected will switch to online learning during that time. WMBB. WJHG.

Sumter: A Villages High School student has tested positive for the coronavirus, the first reported case associated with the school district. Schools opened Monday. Villages News.

Monroe: The rate of positive coronavirus infections in the county has fallen, and school officials said Thursday that students will begin returning to classrooms Monday in stages, with every student who wants in-person learning having that option by Sept. 14. The first students to return will be those who are considered “vulnerable” or may need extra help adjusting to the new routines. “After consultation with the health department, we believe as long as we all follow safety guidelines, students and teachers can remain safe and healthy,” said Superintendent Theresa Axford. Miami Herald. WLRN. Florida Keys Weekly. Key West Citizen.

Gulf: Sept. 4 will be a remote learning day for all school district students. Superintendent Jim Norton said it will be practice in case the district is forced to switch over due to the coronavirus, but will also give students, teachers and staff a break after a hectic start. “We picked this particular day because it coincided with the Labor Day weekend,” said Norton. “This will give us all a long weekend I think we need and will help.” Port St. Joe Star.

Colleges and universities: Stetson University has suspended two students who held large parties, one in DeLand and another in Gulfport. Fifty-five people have tested positive for the coronavirus on the DeLand campus, and two in Gulfport. WMFE.

Opinions on schools: Education Savings Accounts could be the key to offering low-income students the promise of equity through access to such innovations as microschools. Michael B. Horn, redefinED. The recent activities of teachers union, with their laundry list of assorted policy demands, reveal these special interest groups to be more interested in political opportunism than providing the best possible education for students. Jonathan Butcher, redefinED.