Assessments begin today, Miami-Dade considers earlier return, more criticism for Fennoy, and more

Testing requirements: While last year’s high school seniors had their testing assessments waived because of the coronavirus interruption in the academic year, the tests are back on for this year, beginning today with language arts. High school juniors need to pass the tests to fulfill a graduation requirement, or earn an equivalent score on an approved exam such as the SAT or ACT. Algebra testing begins Sept. 21. The tests will be given again, said Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters. “They may take the fall FSA ELA retake, or a later retake, and they may continue to retake the assessment each time it is administered until meeting the requirement,” she said. Tampa Bay Times.

Race and in-person learning: Mostly white U.S. school districts are more than three times as likely to be open for some in-person learning than districts where most students are of color, according to an analysis. It’s a difference that’s driven mostly by parental preference, but nonetheless raises issues of equity. It’s generally agreed that virtual learning can’t match in-person schooling in effectiveness, especially for younger students, leaving them at risk for falling behind. And remote learners also can lose access to free or subsidized meals and special education services and support, which can be replaced by wealthier families. Chalkbeat, Associated Press.

Around the state: The Miami-Dade County School District will consider this week whether to reopen schools to students earlier than expected, Orange County will use federal coronavirus relief aid to test football players, coaches and athletic directors every other week, Palm Beach County principals join in the criticism of district administrators, and the Florida Department of Education has released a list of every Florida student who was named a semifinalist for a National Merit scholarship. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade, Broward: Phase 2 of the state’s reopening begins today in Florida’s two largest counties, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday. The announcement could lead to the reopening of schools in Miami-Dade this month, said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. A special school board meeting will be held this week to discuss the timetable. The district had previously said it would decide by Sept. 30 if schools could be reopened by Oct. 5. Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said last week that the earliest schools could open would be sometime in October, and that the school board would discuss the timing at its Sept. 22 workshop meeting. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. Sun Sentinel. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Florida Phoenix.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay: Job cuts are on the horizon for the Hillsborough County School District. Superintendent Addison Davis and Michael Kemp, the deputy superintendent, have told principals that the district has been outspending revenues for years. They said it could take a year to align spending and hiring. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough school officials said 94 positive coronavirus tests have been reported since schools reopened, with 65 of them students. Pasco County has 59 confirmed cases of coronavirus since schools reopened, with 44 of them students, leading to 1,133 students and 97 employees being quarantined. Pinellas County has quarantined 67 classrooms, two school buses and a school’s football team. Florida Politics. Nicholas Sierra, a 10-year-old safety patrol at Mary E. Bryant Elementary School, helped guide three younger students to safety last Thursday when their school bus plunged into a 4-foot pond. None of the 27 students on board were injured. Tampa Bay Times. Jan Bennett, who won 500 games as a longtime high school basketball coach of both boys and girls in the county and elsewhere, has died of cancer. He was 84. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: District officials said they will use up to $2 million in federal aid from the CARES Act to administer COVID-19 tests to all high school football players, coaches and athletic directors every other week. Some teachers criticized the decision with comments on Facebook such as: “OK so we’re going to test football players but not teachers”; “What a waste of freaking money just so they can play a sport and I can’t get a raise,” and “Just shows that football is more important than teachers.” Superintendent Barbara Jenkins approved the plan. Orlando Sentinel. All students in the vocational training program at the Magnolia School will switch to virtual learning for two weeks after an employee at the school tested positive for the coronavirus last week. WFTV. Incumbent Pam Gould faces a runoff Nov. 3 against Prince Brown for the District 4 seat on the school board. Gould won 48 percent of the primary vote, Brown 32 percent. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: County school principals are the latest group to criticize the district’s administrators for failing to prepare to reopen schools Sept. 21. “You have over-promised to the public a smooth opening, but the likelihood is (the school district) will under-deliver on the expectations for students, parents, teachers and school-based administrators,” wrote Crosspointe Elementary principal Annmarie Dilbert, who chairs the Palm Beach School Administrators’ Association. The group also accused Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s administration of a lack of leadership and “a complete absence of clear-cut communication.” Fennoy responded: “We have prepared to the best of our ability and we continue to prepare. There are some things that we don’t have answers for because we haven’t seen them yet.” Palm Beach Post. In an interview, Fennoy talks about the return to classrooms. WPTV. About 5,000 special education students who attend one of the district’s 520 special programs return to classrooms Wednesday. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Today, 6th-graders who elected in-person instruction return to classrooms in the first step of the phased-in reopening of schools to students. They had been attending classes three days a week and learning online the other two. On Sept. 21, 7th- and 8th-graders return, and high school students follow them Sept. 28. Elementary students who chose in-person learning are already back. Once all students who wanted to return to classrooms have, the hybrid system of some days in classes and some days online will end, though fulltime virtual learning continues. Florida Times-Union. Rodney Wells was recently elected the first black senior class president in the nearly 70-year history of Bishop Kenny High School, a Catholic school in Jacksonville. WTLV.

Polk: The number of positive coronavirus cases in the district now stands at 96 at 51 schools, according to the coronavirus dashboard. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Bill Heller, who was the CEO of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus for 10 years and was later a Florida House representative and advocate for education, has died at the age of 85. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. School choice has emerged as a key issue in the race for the District 1 seat on the Pinellas County School Board. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: A positive coronavirus test has been reported by someone who was on the campus of Cape Coral High School, according to health officials. The areas have been cleaned and those who had contact with the person are being notified. The school is open today. WFTX.

Pasco: The district has 44 confirmed cases of coronavirus since schools reopened, leading to 1,133 students and 97 employees being quarantined. Florida Politics.

Brevard, Osceola: The Brevard County School District began posting its coronavirus dashboard, showing at least 32 confirmed cases in the past week. Twenty-eight were students and four were employees, and they led to 188 people being put under quarantine. Seventy-three percent of those quarantined were exposed in schools, according to district officials. Florida Today. Students at Golfview Elementary School in Brevard and Harmony Middle in Osceola  return to class today after two weeks of virtual learning. The schools were closed after multiple positive tests. WKMG. WOFL. School board member Matt Susin wants the board to halt Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School’s plan to change its mascot until the board can consider the district’s policy. A school committee decided in August to retire the school’s Indian mascot. “I would disagree with the concept this is a school’s decision, in the fact that there is no policy, procedure or anything in place to allow them do it,” Susin said. Other board members said they’re willing to consider creating a policy, but aren’t interested in intervening in this case. Florida Today.

Volusia: The district has had to clarify a memo from the interim superintendent to principals and department heads that told them not to speak to the media without first checking with the school spokesperson. The disclosure brought a swift backlash. “How can we, as public school teachers who are mandated to provide a free space and high quality education to children, be prohibited from sharing the truth about what’s going on in our classrooms?” asked teachers union president Elizabeth Albert. A followup memo was then issued from interim superintendent Carmen Balgobin that read, in part, “In no way was this intended to instruct employees on matters of their private concern protected by the First Amendment.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Eleven more students tested positive for the coronavirus between Wednesday and Friday, putting the total since schools reopened to 21 students and 18 employees. The number of people advised to quarantine is not being released to the district by health officials. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Fifty-four positive coronavirus cases have been reported since schools opened Aug. 17, resulting in 784 people being put in quarantine because they had direct contact with one of the people infected. Thirty-four of those with positive tests were students. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A 16-year-old boy was arrested Friday and accused of carrying a loaded firearm on a school campus. He was at Ballard Elementary School in Bradenton when he was apprehended by police. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Collier: District officials have plans to expand the eCollier Academy online learning program, and have committed $832,000 to remodel one of the buildings at Calusa Park Elementary School to give it a permanent home. The academy offers students an alternative to the Florida Virtual School, and would allow the district to keep the state money that follows students who choose the program. Naples Daily News. The first two weeks of virtual learning got mixed reviews from parents because of technical problems. School board members urged patience. “I urge the public and parents to have patience, reinforce the positives,” said board member Jory Westberry. “Take a deep breath and send a supportive note to your child’s teachers and their administrators.” Naples Daily News.

Lake: Six students and three employees tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Fifty students and nine employees were advised to quarantine. Daily Commercial.

St. Johns: Nearly 500 students have been asked to quarantine after contracting the coronavirus or being exposed to it in the first two weeks of school. Twenty-three students and six employees have tested positive. WJXT.

Marion: Nineteen students and five employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 last week at 12 schools and two other district buildings, school officials said. Ninety-three students and 11 employees were placed in quarantine. Ocala Star-Banner. School board members are considering creating a virtual learning code of conduct after reports of bad behavior by parents. Explicit language has been overheard during classes, and several women have walked into view wearing only a bra. Ocala Star-Banner.

Leon: Eighteen students and 12 employees have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since schools reopened Aug. 31. Thirteen of the 42 schools collecting data have reported cases. “Just about all of these were non-school exposures,” said assistant superintendent Alan Cox. Tallahassee Democrat.

Northwest Florida: Schools are closed today in Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties because of expected storm conditions caused by Tropical Storm Sally. The storm is forecast to make landfall in Mississippi or Louisiana sometime Tuesday as a hurricane, and its approach will bring heavy winds, rain and storm surge to northwest Florida. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR. WMBB.

Alachua: Parents are being asked to sign consent forms to allow their children to be tested for the coronavirus at schools if they’re showing symptoms. Health officials said the forms must be signed if parents decide to allow their children to get the tests. “We wanted to offer parents a way to get free testing that was convenient for them,” said district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: Katlyn Paul, a student atBay Haven Charter Academy, is one of 300 U.S. middle-schoolers invited to compete in the 10th Broadcom MASTERS on Sept. 16. Her project shows the effects of solar panels on Earth’s atmospheric temperature. WMBB.

Martin, Indian River: More than 100 students in the Martin and Indian River school districts were placed under quarantine Friday. Ninety-one of them were from Martin County, while 13 were sent home from Glendale Elementary School in Indian River County. TCPalm. A 73-year-old Indian River County school bus driver won $2 million in the Aug. 26 Powerball drawing, and said he’s “hanging it up” after nearly two decades of driving a bus for St. Edwards School in Vero Beach. TCPalm.

Charlotte: One person was seriously injured and a student was taken to a hospital for observation on Friday after a school bus driver ran into the back of a car. The driver of the car, a 19-year-old woman, was flown to a hospital. The bus driver was cited for a violation of the right of way. WINK.

Citrus: Lorelei Mohammadbhoy, an 8th-grader at Lecanto Middle School, is one of 300 U.S. middle-schoolers invited to compete in the 10th Broadcom MASTERS on Sept. 16. Her research has shown the impact of plastics on sea turtle reproduction. Citrus County Chronicle.

Nassau: A 12-year-old Lighthouse Christian School student was arrested after school officials found him in possession of three handguns and ammunition. Sheriff’s deputies said they also found a drawing in his desk of a man outside a school surrounded by dead bodies. The boy’s mother told deputies that he recently killed the family dog by accident with a pellet gun. Florida Times-Union.

Washington: The school district has received a $500,000 federal grant that can be used to train law enforcement officers or buy technology to improve security in schools. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: The University of Miami is now requiring that all students must get a coronavirus test every two weeks during the fall semester. The rule replaces the random testing of students, but university employees will still be tested randomly. Miami Herald.

More on the coronavirus: It’s not just students and teachers and parents who have to adapt to the new normal in education. It’s also marching bands, and nurses, among others. Tampa Bay Times. The costs of school closings to the U.S. economy due to the pandemic could be $14.2 trillion over the next 80 years, predicts a report from the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The 74. With more teachers opting out because of the pandemic, school districts around the country are scrambling for substitutes. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: The rulers of our teacher unions and those of allied non-teaching school staff need at long last identify and explain the justification for their forcing un-monied parents to deliver 5-year-old Mary to P.S. 99 instead of that private, maybe religious, school they preferred but could not afford. John E. Coons, redefinED. Local officials in Hillsborough County are sounding the alarm about a crisis that unfolded in plain view over many years. The school district needs more schools, but the roads to the new campuses are not good enough. County officials, meanwhile, say they cannot help fix the transportation system — even though the county shortchanged its revenues for years by subsidizing home building, which brings in new families, who send their kids to school. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff