Online learning choices and in-person attendance requirements, growth in coronavirus cases and more

Who’s learning online? One of the arguments for the reopening of Florida’s K-12 schools has been to help working parents who struggled to juggle jobs and supervise their children’s online learning during the coronavirus pandemic. But an analysis of attendance records at four central Florida districts shows that schools with the highest percentage of low-income, black and Hispanic students often have the most students who chose to learn remotely. For many parents, the decision centered on health concerns instead of the quality of the education. “I know the virus has had a disproportionate effect on minority children,” said Joseph Caesar, who is black and chose remote learning instead of letting his 6-year-old daughter attend classes at Englewood Elementary School in Orange County. “I didn’t want to risk that for my child. When you know there’s no treatment, there’s no vaccine, it’s just very difficult to say you want your child back on campus.” Orlando Sentinel.

Lobbying for online learning: Two more influential groups are lobbying the state to allow districts to continue offering online learning for tens of thousands of students in the second semester and providing the funding for it. The state has yet to say if it will do so, and parents are in the position of having to choose a learning option for their children without knowing if it will even be available. “We recommend to maintain the funding stability that they’ve exercised in the fall, and also the choices that we’ve extended to families,” said Pinellas County school superintendent Michael Grego, who is the president of the state superintendents association. The medical advisory committee for the Orange County School District also sent a letter to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran saying that “we believe having a virtual school platform for the entire 2020-2021 academic year is a medical necessity for many of our students, especially those who have underlying medical conditions that would place them at high-risk.” The committee is made up of infectious disease experts, pediatricians and nurses. Tampa Bay Times. WKMG. WOFL.

Coronavirus spread: Coronavirus infections at Florida schools continue to rise rapidly, according to the latest report from the Florida Department of Health. There were 2,647 cases reported at K-12 schools and colleges and universities during the week of Oct. 25-31. It’s the third week in which more than 2,000 cases were reported, and since Sept. 6 nearly 15,500 cases have been reported in schools.  Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: The number of coronavirus cases is growing in several school districts, students learning online who receive grades below a C are being ordered back to Marion County classrooms, adjustments are suggested to the Duval online learning program, a Hispanic group is lobbying to change the name of Melbourne High School, and Destin Middle School is grieving for the deaths of two students in the past two weeks in traffic accidents. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

South Florida: The number of students and employees infected with the coronavirus continues to grow quickly in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. In Miami-Dade, the number of students and employees increased from 332 to 438 between last Friday and this Thursday. In Broward in the same span, the number of cases went from 150 to 249. The number of cases in Monroe increased from 23 to 29 in that time. Miami Herald. WFOR.

Hillsborough: Two “Schools of Hope” will be opened in Hillsborough County in 2021 by the Texas-based charter school company IDEA Public Schools. Emily Carlisle, who has been chosen as principal for one of them, the IDEA Hope College Preparatory School, talks about her background, the company’s mission, her goals and how the school will be different from other charters and traditional public schools. redefinED.

Duval: A district review of the Duval HomeRoom online learning program concludes that adjustments are needed for the second semester in assessments, attendance, cameras, student information and teacher conferences. Students will occasionally be required to go to a school for assessment testing, respond to teachers’ attendance checks, turn on cameras when asked by teachers, and make appointments to meet with teachers through the school and not during class time. WJXT.

Lee: A classroom at Skyline Elementary School in Cape Coral has been closed because of the coronavirus. It’s the fourth in the district to be shuttered while students and the teacher are in a 14-day quarantine. Students will attend classes remotely. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: A name change is being considered for Melbourne High School, which is one of the oldest schools in the county. The Hispanic advocacy group United Third Bridge made the proposal to change the name to Astronaut Joseph M. Acaba Melbourne High School in honor of a former science teacher at the school who in 2009 became the first person of Puerto Rican heritage in space. The school board will discuss the proposal and hear from members of the community at a meeting Nov. 16. Florida Today.

Manatee: Twenty people have been quarantined after a student at Witt Elementary School in eastern Manatee contracted the coronavirus. As of Wednesday night, the district has reported 202 positive coronavirus cases resulting in the quarantining of 2,088 people since schools reopened Aug. 17. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: Mount Dora High School students traveled back to 1966 and 2000 when they recently opened a time capsule that contained memorabilia from both years. The capsule included yearbooks, newspapers and letters, including one from Bill Clinton in 2000. Seniors will bury their own time capsule next April, which will be opened by the class of 2041. Daily Commercial. WKMG.

Marion: Students who are learning remotely and receive a D or F in a core class will be required to return to in-person living, according to a new district policy. About 1,700 students are affected, and they will join another 2,000 students who chose to return to classrooms for the second nine-week grading period. “We worked with the student and their families to create a contract,” said Superintendent Diane Gullett. “They have outlined expectations with attendance and performance in classes to say ‘you have this nine-weeks to work this out and if not, move to some of the other models.’ ” WKMG.

Escambia: For the eighth time, the school district has received a grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity program to help provide programs for students in military families. The district has received more than $10 million from the grants program. WKRG.

Clay: District leaders have begun planning the order in which repairs to school roofs and air conditioning units will be made. Tuesday, voters approved a half-cent addition to the sales tax to pay for school improvements. One priority is to add classroom buildings to existing schools so fewer portable classrooms are needed. WJXT.

Leon: A Jacksonville group was in Tallahassee on Thursday collecting signatures for a petition to put prayer back in schools. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that school-sponsored prayer was unconstitutional, but supporters believe the addition of Amy Coney Barrett to the court could be a decisive vote in overturning that decision. WTXL.

Okaloosa: Destin Middle School is reeling after two students have been killed in traffic accidents in the past two weeks. On Oct. 22, 11-year-old Kohltan Ward was hit by a car while riding his bike. Sunday, 12-year-old Isadore Vicente died in a car crash just hours before the memorial service for Kohltan. “Our school community is processing this tragic news and coping with heartache,” said principal Grant Meyer. “This is a difficult time. We especially want our students to know we care and support them.” Grief counselors are available at the school for students. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Flagler: The health department is offering students and staff free flu shots in schools this month. Students will need consent forms from their parents. Palm Coast Observer.

Hendry: School officials report that 250 students and 31 employees are under quarantine because of exposure to the coronavirus. The highest number, 65, was at Clewiston Elementary School. Southwest Florida Online.

Jackson: Nearly 200 students and employees from the Marianna K-8 School have been put under quarantine after 11 cases of the coronavirus were reported. Two students and nine employees tested positive. Health officials don’t believe the infections were contracted at the school. WMBB.

Taylor: An outside law firm will be hired to review the school district’s hiring process after a recent report concluded that it included racial discrimination. The report was issued after a female job applicant filed a complaint. The law firm is expected to offer ideas at the next school board meeting Nov. 17. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: University provosts asked the State Board of Governors on Thursday to drop the standardized test admissions requirement or risk losing students to out-of-state schools that don’t require the tests. Chancellor Marshall Criser urged the board to not change admission standards, and said the state was “working to remove barriers for students to be able to take the exam.” Politico Florida. Students continue to have problems taking the SAT and ACT college entrance exams because of cancellations caused by the coronavirus. The College Board, which provides the SAT, said this week that about 312,000 U.S. students registered to take the test Saturday, but about 96,000 won’t be able to because 30 percent of the testing sites are closed. Education Dive. Faculty at the University of Florida have filed a grievance against the school’s plans to increase the number of face-to-face courses offered in the spring. Gainesville Sun. St. Johns River State College will increase the number of in-person classes this spring at its campuses in St. Augustine, Orange Park and Palatka. St. Augustine Record.

Committee assignments: Incoming Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, has appointed leaders of committees for the legislative session that begins in March. Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, was chosen to head the revamped Education & Employment Committee, which now includes issues relating to job training as well as education. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. When lawmakers hold their organizational session Nov. 17, new safety rules will be in place. In the Senate, all senators and senior staff members will be tested for the coronavirus and the number of people allowed on the floor will be limited. In the House, members will have their temperatures taken and coronavirus tests will be available. People who want to sit in the gallery will have to show evidence of a negative test, and visitors will be limited. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: Why is there still any discussion about whether the Holocaust was a real event? Elizabeth Gelman and Michael Igel, Orlando Sentinel. Unwieldy regulations can cripple learning pods and encumber families at a time when flexibility is crucial. Instead, learning pods should operate under the less stringent and more flexible regulations that benefit home-school families. Jude Schwalbach, Daily Signal. Education decision-makers have a choice, both for this year and in years to come. In the midst of the chaos, there is an opportunity for a new and more innovative system of accountability — one that favors collaboration over competition, provides tangible outcomes that can be used to improve instruction, and fosters creativity and genuine problem-solving — all things that standardized tests can’t measure. Megan Hendricks, Gainesville Sun.