Florida ranked 3rd in K-12 achievement, cyberattacks continue, COVID-19 cases, school safety and more

Florida 3rd in K-12 achievement: Florida ranks third in the country in K-12 education achievement, according to the annual Quality Counts rankings by Education Week. The state was awarded a grade of B-minus for its 79.6 score on the 0-100 scale, trailing just Massachusetts (B, 85) and New Jersey (B, 83). It’s the highest finish ever for the state. The ranking was compiled by averaging the state’s A-minus (90.5) in educational equity, C-plus (75.5) for improvement and C (75.5) for current performance. In the overall ratings, Florida was 24th with a C grade that was compiled by averaging the B-minus for achievement, a D-plus (68.1) for school finances and a C-plus (77.6) in chance for success. Education Week.

Around the state: The cyberattacks continued for a third day of online learning in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach County School Board members are critical of the district’s administration for not having a finalized school reopening plan yet, and many more coronavirus cases are being reported. Here are more developments on school reopenings and other news from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: A dozen more cyberattacks were detected against the state’s largest school district on Wednesday morning, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced. Some of the attacks are being launched locally, while others are coming from overseas, he said. The impact was felt by students and staff who had trouble signing into the My School Online platform for a third straight day. By Wednesday night, the district had suspended use of the K12 platform for students in grades 6-12. Instead, they will use Zoom, Microsoft Teams or another system. It was also disclosed Wednesday that the $15 million contract between the district and K12, which owns the platform, has not been signed by both parties. Miami Herald. WLRN. WPLG. WSVNWFOR. Associated Press. Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida.

Broward: A “Zoom bomber” interrupted an online 5th-grade class this week at Parkside Elementary School by posting vulgar messages in a classroom chat. It was the second such hack in the district this year, and both illustrate how difficult it is for districts to stop such interruptions from happening. Parents say the same problem is cropping up in Lee County. Sun Sentinel. WZVN.

Hillsborough: The district has reported 20 positive coronavirus tests since schools opened Monday: 16 students and four employees. Since July 31, there have been 170 cases. The district’s coronavirus dashboard will be updated 12 times a day, seven days a week. Florida Politics.

Palm Beach: School board members expressed anger with the administration for not having the school reopening plan finished, and especially for not having a process established so at-risk teachers can apply for remote teaching jobs. “The nicest word I can come up with right now is I’m disgusted,” said board member Debra Robinson. Earlier this week, Superintendent Donald Fennoy tried unsuccessfully to convince County Mayor Dave Kerner to wait another week to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis if the county could move into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan. Fennoy and the school board had previously announced that schools would start a week after Phase 2 began, but the superintendent felt Sept. 14 was too early. Kerner rejected the request, saying, “I can’t let the economy suffer because the school district is not ready to go back to brick-and-mortar.” Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPEC. Seven-year-old Shelby Hires of Tequesta has raised money to fill backpacks for hundreds of Bahamian children who were affected by Hurricane Dorian a year ago. Now she’s planning to collect toys for the children for the holidays. WPTV.

Duval: The hybrid learning model, in which students attend school in-person several days a week and remotely on the others, is due to end Sept. 14. But parents are pushing for it to be extended, and Superintendent Diana Greene said the district is considering it. “The hybrid seems to be working,” said Dr. Jennifer Cowart, a physician and parent who spoke at a recent meeting. “I know it has its challenges, but it seems like it’s working as far as keeping coronavirus from spreading.” WJXT.

Polk: Six more positive coronavirus tests were reported at the Lakeland High School/Harrison School for the Arts campus, doubling the number of cases at that school since schools reopened eight days ago. District officials did not say how many students and staff were quarantined, but school board member Billy Townsend said he heard it was 300 students and 25 teachers. Lakeland Ledger. WTVT. Asymptomatic teachers who have been exposed to the coronavirus will be permitted to return to classrooms if they choose to under the district’s new policy. WFLA.

Pinellas: The coronavirus has reached inside the school district’s operations center. Three cases have been discovered this week at the Walter Pownall Administrative Center in Largo, where the district’s school materials are kept and employees in the security, transportation, facilities and construction, food and nutrition, maintenance departments work. Gradebook. Some parents complained about a video on race relations shown recently to Seminole Middle School students. “What they felt as they watched it is they should be ashamed that they are white and feel guilty, almost,” said one parent. District officials said the video was not age-appropriate or approved by the district, and the teacher has been counseled. WFLA.

Osceola: Juan Sosa, a custodian at the Celebration K-8 School, died Sunday of complications from the coronavirus. WESH.

Volusia: Two students and six employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to district officials. They did not say how many were under quarantine. The district will publish updated on case numbers every Wednesday and Friday. Florida Today. WFTV. Superintendent Scott Fritz has extended his leave of absence to continue his treatment for cancer. He’s expected to return before December, though he’s expected to take more time after that return for more treatment. Next week, the school board will consider extending the interim superintendent appointment of Carmen Balgobin, who is the deputy superintendent of teaching, leading and learning. Florida Today.

Manatee: Two more schools are reporting coronavirus infections. R. Dan Nolan Middle School, which had one case reported Monday, now has another that resulted in an undisclosed number of “direct exposures.” Braden River Middle School also reported its first case. Direct exposure refers to close contact with an infected person for 15 or more minutes. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: Two coronavirus testing sites will soon open for district school employees and possibly students. One is on the north side of the county, in the health department, and the other is at the district’s bus transportation center in Osprey. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A program intended to help teachers better understand the need for cultural sensitivity has been suspended after complaints about the speaker’s message. Author and educator Sharroky Hollie was to be paid $115,000 for seven sessions during the school year. In the first, he encouraged teachers to shame colleagues publicly if they saw them being racially insensitive. Some teachers complained, and state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, posted a photo of a note from a teacher that read, “The speaker spent 30 minutes explaining BLM (Black Lives Matter) and how all whites are racist.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: The county’s NAACP chapter has opened two virtual learning camps for students in churches, and plans several more to be ready to accept students for remote learning if the district has to close down schools because of the pandemic. Ocala Star-Banner. WKMG.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: At least 736 students and staff members at Treasure Coast schools are in quarantine because they were exposed to the coronavirus or contracted it. In Martin County, the total is 411, while it’s 270 in St. Lucie and 55 in Indian River. TCPalm. WPEC. A student at Fellsmere Elementary School in Indian River County has tested positive, requiring the two-week quarantining of 17 students and an employee. WPTV. WPEC. The Martin County School Board has selected five finalists for the superintendent’s job. They are: Michael J. Dunsmore, adjunct professor at East Carolina University in North Carolina; Peter B. Licata, Palm Beach County regional superintendent; John D. Millay, former superintendent of Meade County School District in Brandenburg, Ky.; Thomas A. Phelps, Osceola County deputy superintendent of human services and operations; and Lori M. Romano, director of career, technical and adult-education programs in Pasco County. Interviews are Sept. 15-17, and the board is expected to makes its selection by the end of the month. The person chosen will succeed Laurie Gaylord, whose term expires in November. TCPalm.

Clay: A 13-year-old student at Lake Asbury Junior High School in Green Cove Springs has been arrested after allegedly making a threat on social media to shoot up the school. Another student told a teacher about the threat, and the teacher told the school resource officer. “The suspect admitted to making the threat to the school and having a rifle and ammunition that was displayed in the video with him,” said Sheriff Michelle Cook. Florida Times-Union. Clay Today. WJAX. WJXT.

Leon: A student at Swift Creek Middle School and an employee at Chiles High have tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials at the schools. Health officials said no other students at Swift Creek were exposed. They’re the first cases in the district since the school year started Monday. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV. An assistant principal at Apalachee Elementary School has been reassigned after writing on Facebook, “For a while now I have felt like the Ringmaster of the ****show. Today has done me in! I do not want to be the ringmaster, someone come get the monkeys and all the circus friends.” Student enrollment at Apalachalee is primarily African-American. Nikki Bradley was moved to Killearn Lakes Elementary. WTXL. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. AAnthony Harvey, 27, a food services worker at the district’s central kitchen has been arrested and accused of molesting a child at a private residence. Tallahassee Democrat.

Charlotte: The school district’s policy, as detailed in the reopening plan, requires children exhibiting symptoms associated with the coronavirus to be sent home for 14 days of quarantining, until a doctor clears the student, or until the student receives a negative test result. Some parents think the standard for quarantining is too low. WINK. WBBH.

Walton: Enrollment in the district’s schools is down about 6 percent from last March, according to Superintendent Russell Hughes. Nearly 8,100 of the district’s students are attending school in person. WJHG.

More on the coronavirus: Pandemic pods are catching on in Florida and elsewhere across the country during the pandemic, and educators say they’re likely to stick around even after the virus is no longer the threat it is now. For teachers like Kendra Newton, a 24-year-old who just left the Orange County School District to teach an eight-student pod in Oregon, it’s a chance to make more money in a less stressful environment. Washington Post.

Addressing school safety: A school safety group that was formed after 17 people were shot to death in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland met this week for the first time this year to address the problems facing security in classrooms. Funding has been cut, the school safety law was not strengthened by the Legislature and districts are trying to figure out how to hold active-shooter drills in an era of social distancing. Tony Montalto, president of the group Stand with Parkland, said now is not the time to get complacent about threats other than coronavirus. Sun Sentinel.

Police in schools: The number of police officers in K-12 schools in Florida has nearly doubled since the Stoneman Douglas shootings in 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by the University of Florida. The increase, stoked by a state law that required an armed officer at every school, has led to a spike in the number of arrests on campus, and some student activists are lobbying to get at least some of those officers removed. WLRN.

Opinions on schools: This horrific pandemic has given families and micro-communities a unique opportunity to assume more control over how their children are educated. We need to give these families and their communities the support they need to be successful. Perhaps the hopes of the 1960s idealists will be realized and a more natural, child-centered way of educating our children will soon become the new norm. Doug Tuthill, redefinED.