Florida schools to get $3.1B in COVID aid, school cases total 36,258, district police force proposed and more

Florida’s share of aid: Florida will receive about $3.1 billion from the nearly $82 billion allocated for education in the latest coronavirus relief bill passed by the U.S. Congress. The money will be used to “help states and school districts safely reopen schools, measure and effectively address significant learning loss, and take other actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the students and families who depend on our K-12 schools,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wrote in a letter to state education commissioners.  Florida Phoenix.

Coronavirus in schools: More than 36,000 cases of the coronavirus were reported in Florida’s K-12 public and private schools between Sept. 6 and Dec. 26, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Health data. Students accounted for 26,625 of those, while 2,977 teachers, 1,886 employees and 4,770 others made up the rest. Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: Volusia school board members will consider forming a district police department, the University of South Florida has decided against eliminating its College of Education undergraduate program, the Broward school district said it’s spent more than $62 million extra because of the pandemic and is asking the state to waive the consequences of statewide testing assessments, three finalists for teacher of the year are named in Lake County, and teachers are considering how they can include discussions about Wednesday’s disturbance at the U.S. Capitol launched by pro-Trump supporters in a nonpartisan way. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: When the pandemic set in early in 2020, an art project to create zines, which are self-published print works, by students at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School near Aventura was put on hold and eventually became an opportunity lost. But students said they learned a lesson in letting go and moving on. WLRN.

Broward: The school district appealed to the state again Wednesday to waive the consequences of state assessment testing, arguing that it’s unfair to hold teachers accountable for students’ performance in a school year affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Chief academic officer Dan Gohl said the pandemic has made this a “lost” school year for as many as 8,200 students. “Each one of these 8,200 who had more than 15 absences in the first quarter is a story of the impact of COVID-19 on the disruption of their family lives, which is preventing them from staying connected with schooling,” he said. “If we do not suspend the accountability system as it is now, teachers will be held accountable in their appraisals for students who they may never have seen.” The school board also was told that the district has spent an extra $62.7 million because of the pandemic. WTVJ. Teacher salaries, increase per-student funding, standardized testing, local authority and funding for school security were among the priorities the school district presented to the legislative delegation at a meeting Wednesday. The pandemic was discussed at length, but was not among the priorities. WLRN.

Hillsborough: A 15-year-old Chamberlain High School student was arrested Wednesday after police officers discovered he was carrying a gun. They were serving a warrant against the boy on a grand theft auto charge when the gun was found during a search of the boy’s things. Tampa Bay Times.

Duval: An assistant football coach at Trinity Christian Academy has been suspended for a post he put on Instagram Wednesday during the violence at the U.S. Capitol. “I’m ready to see some white bodies drop… start shooting them and taking lives. If it was us we’d be slaughtered by now. They need to start letting rounds go on them boys!” School officials said such behavior “would not be tolerated,” but the coach was not identified. WJXT.

Polk: Just a day after district officials assured parents there was no deadline for them to choose in-person or remote learning for their children, some schools have sent letters urging parents to make a choice, and some want an answer by Friday. Just before the winter break, about 70,500 students were learning in classrooms while about 33,200 were using an online option. Lakeland Ledger.

Volusia: School board members will decide next week whether to create a police department for the district. The proposal calls for switching some sworn resource officers from local law enforcement agencies to the district force. The district would continue to use other sworn officers as well as about 70 school guardians who carry guns on campuses but don’t have arrest powers. Michelle Newman, the district’s director of safety and security, said there are  advantages to an in-house force, such as having the authority to check license plates on suspicious cars and quickly accessing records, at a minimal extra cost.  Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Lake: Three finalists have been chosen for the Lake County School District’s teacher of the year award. They are: Josh Wintersdorf, an algebra teacher at Umatilla Middle School; Shannon Clark, a 4th-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Eustis Heights Elementary; and Rikki Parisoe, a 1st-grade teacher at Fruitland Park Elementary. The winner will be announced Jan. 28. Daily Commercial.

Sarasota: Former school board member Eric Robinson has been cleared of wrongdoing during his role as treasurer for several political campaigns. Accusations of potential election criminal misconduct were made by George Thurlow, a supporter of Tom Edwards, who defeated Robinson for a school board seat in the August primary. Gov. Ron DeSantis assigned Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren to investigate the allegations. Robinson said he’s considering suing Thurlow. Florida Politics.

Clay: The Clay Education Foundation has opened a Tools 4 Clay Schools shop at Orange Park Junior High that offers teachers free supplies. The school district donated a portable classroom to house the store. Clay Today.

Alachua: An after-school program that district officials had been told would be discontinued won’t be ending after all. The 21st Century After School Program found a grant and will continue to provide extended learning time at Metcalfe, Lake Forest, Idylwild, Alachua and Irby elementary schools at least through the summer of 2022. WCJB.

Bay: School officials said there’s a shortage of substitute teachers. About 500 subs are enrolled with the district, but only about 300 of them are accepting jobs. Pay for subs has been bumped from $10 an hour to $12, and subs who work more than 10 days a month also receive a $100 bonus. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: The University of South Florida announced Wednesday that it will keep its College of Education open and continue to offer undergraduate degrees through it. In October, USF officials announced the undergraduate education programs would be eliminated in a cost-cutting move, but reversed course after discussions with Tampa Bay area education and business leaders. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. WTVT. Bay News 9.

Spring education plans: Forty-nine school districts have now gotten their spring semester education plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. Getting sign-off from the state Wednesday was the plan for the Gadsden school district. Florida Department of Education.

Education podcasts: Tommy Schultz, the incoming leader of the American Federation for Children, a national organization advocating the expansion of education choice, talked with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about how the pandemic will affect education choice legislation. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: With the end of the pandemic in sight, school choice advocates are making a push for education savings accounts for K-12 students that would replace the public school system with grants to parents of children that would be spent on private schools or on homeschooling expenses. But Florida already has a large-scale ESA program, although it is not at the K-12 level. This ESA program is for the postsecondary level and is called Bright Futures Scholarships. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.