Enrollment forecast down, Broward order upheld, online sales tax bill gets OK, top cop quits and more

Enrollment estimates: State economic analysts are now projecting that K-12 enrollment will drop by 78,745 in the 2021-2022 school year from the projection of 2,920,659 made last summer. Office of Economic & Demographic Research coordinator Amy Baker said the projection is not as precise as she’d like because of the coronavirus pandemic, and urged local school districts to provide accurate numbers of students who have switched to private schools or home-schooling so the Legislature can prepare an education budget. A $2.7 billion budget deficit has been forecast, and legislative leaders have said education will not be spared from cuts. The EDR is expected to make another enrollment projection in late February or early March. The House’s education appropriations committee meets for a budget workshop Wednesday. Politico Florida.

In the Legislature: A bill that would require online businesses with no retail stores in Florida to collect sales taxes on purchases won the unanimous approval of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Monday. The bill could add as much as $600 million in state revenues, which would help ease anticipated cuts in education, health-care and other areas. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Legislators are prepping for a battle with Democrats, teachers and state employees over a bill that would require most new state workers to enroll in a 401(k)-style retirement plan. Current law allows new employees to opt for a traditional pension from the state. “At a time when the people of our state are suffering immensely, we should not be looking to force state employees into a riskier, more expensive 401(k) plan that serves as a damn meal ticket for hedge fund managers,” said state Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. Politico Florida.

Around the state: An arbitrator has ruled that Broward school officials may order teachers back to classrooms to meet the district’s needs, about 6,000 struggling students in Miami-Dade County made the switch from remote to in-person learning on Monday, the Miami-Dade school board approved an administration reorganization but with complaints and questions about the process, the director of the Duval County School District’s police force has resigned after his department was accused by a statewide grand jury of “fraud” and underreporting school crimes, two more districts announce their teacher of the year, the teachers union president said the Escambia school district is no longer notifying teachers when there’s a coronavirus case in their school, and the Florida High School Athletic Association changed a bylaw to allow more students to be eligible for sports. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: About 6,000 students who have been learning remotely but struggling returned to classrooms Monday after being urged to do so by district officials. About 170,000 K-12 students received an F on their first report card, and 10,000 of them were encouraged to return to schools for face-to-face learning. That’s about 9 percent of all students, and is 5 percentage points higher than the total last year. “We know who’s losing ground, and there are some children who need to return to the schoolhouse,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. WPLG. School board members approved Carvalho’s “organizational realignment” on Monday that was prompted by several departures and retirements of top administrators. But they were unhappy with the process, as they had just the weekend to see the 63-page plan before voting on it. Miami Herald.

Broward: An arbitrator has ruled that the school district may require teachers to return to classrooms to meet the needs of the district. The teachers union had sued the district after 1,700 teachers who had been working remotely were ordered to return to school. About 600 of them were later granted remote assignments. Superintendent Robert Runcie called the arbitrator’s decision a “win” for students, while union president Anna Fusco said teachers were happy that principals will now have to justify their decisions to call teachers back to classrooms. WPLG. WSVN. To help students who have struggled academically through the pandemic, the school district is offering a free one-on-one tutoring service. It’s called Ask Bria, an acronym for Broward remote instructional assistant, and it’s available Monday through Thursday from 3:15 to 8:30 p.m. Up to 500 students a day are using it, but district officials see it as a way to help the 59,000 students who are having problems, and want to expand its use. “We are meeting kids as well as their families at hours that may be convenient for them,” said Valeria Wanza, the district’s chief performance and accountability officer. WTVJ.

Orange: A teacher at the Renaissance Charter School Hunter’s Creek in Orlando has been arrested and accused of domestic violence. Haines City police said Gladys Negron-Diaz, 46, scratched and hit the victim, who was not seriously injured. WKMG. WTVT.

Palm Beach: Four of the seven school board members have told district inspector general Teresa Michael that they do not support her proposal to stop publishing her investigative findings online. “I think that posting the reports not only ensures transparency, it also ensures that all reports are thoroughly investigated,” board member Karen Brill said. “I do think that the community expects a level of transparency from us.” Michael had argued that more people might come forward with information about misconduct if they knew details about investigations would not be published. The board will discuss the issue at its Feb. 3 meeting. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: The director of the school district’s police department resigned Monday, about a month after a statewide grand jury report singled out the department for “outright fraud” and underreporting crimes in schools. Micheal Edwards had worked for the district since 2015 after spending 30 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Assistant chief Wayne Clark Sr. will step in as acting director, effective immediately. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV. School board members have joined their peers around the state in urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to move teachers and school-related personnel higher on the priority list for receiving coronavirus vaccinations. “Just this month, we have tragically lost two invaluable educators and a student,” wrote board chair Elizabeth Andersen. “This has been a very challenging year for us all, but our educators are simply exhausted by the burdens that they carry.” Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. Vandals broke a window and a door at the Duval County School District headquarters sometime over the weekend. WJAX.

Polk: A special education teacher at Stambaugh Middle School in Auburndale has been arrested and charged with misdemeanor DUI, marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. Deputies said Brandy Reinert, 40, was found sitting in her car in the parking lot of a bar Saturday night, smoking what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette. Lakeland Ledger. WKMG. A custodian at Griffin Elementary School in Haines City has been arrested and accused of domestic violence. Deputies said Jamie Collazo Gonzalez, 66, grabbed the woman by the neck and pushed her. She was not injured, but Gonzalez is being charged with battery. WKMG. WTVT.

Lee, Collier: The school board is being asked to consider an new approach as an alternative to school suspensions. The restorative justice method has students who are accused of misbehaving in class meet with those who have been affected by their actions. At Franklin Elementary School, suspensions declined by 80 percent, from 300 in 2016 to 60 in 2018, after the restorative techniques were introduced. WFTX. School employees over the age of 65 and school nurses are now getting coronavirus vaccinations in both Collier and Lee counties. About 240 people from each school district have gotten their first shots. Naples Daily News.

Brevard: The Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School advisory committee’s vote last week to change the school name and mascot was unanimous, but is causing a rift between supporters and critics. The Indian name was adopted in 1959, and the decision to change it is unpopular with many alumni, parents and community supporters. “They will always be the Indians to us,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “We will continue to wear our Indian shirts and gear because we are not part of this cancel culture.” Members of the committee defended their decision. “I feel pretty strongly that change is the right thing to do,” said Steve Hart.  Florida Today.

Manatee: Twenty-three coronavirus cases were reported by district officials on Monday, sending 240 people from 18 campuses into quarantine. Twenty of the new cases were students. That boosts the total number of cases this semester to 141, with 1,882 quarantined. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: The county’s planning commission has approved a 10,000-acre housing development east of Interstate 75 that is eventually expected to have 30,000 residents and several schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Laura Kingsley, the school district’s chief academic officer and assistant superintendent, has announced that she’s retiring after 35 years with the system. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: District officials are no longer notifying teachers and other employees when a coronavirus case has been reported in the buildings they work in, according to union president Darzell Warren. He said teachers relied on the messages, which were halted after the winter break, to stay safe. “When they are notified, at least then they can step up and even be more cautious and be more diligent about making sure that they’re doing even more with the cleaning and the handwashing and making sure that the kids are having their face covering,” Warren said. WEAR.

Bay: School district employees over the age of 65 has started to receive coronavirus vaccinations through PanCare Health in Panama City. Appointments were assigned through a lottery system. “I will say that offering the shots to 65 and older gave me a lot of insight into the need and the demand,” said Sharon Michalik, communications director for the district. “There’s a high interest in our employees because they are directly working with students.” Panama City News Herald.

Citrus: Academy of Environmental Science board members meet today in an emergency session to discuss how to fill the principal’s job that opened up last week when Zachary Leonard resigned. Citrus County Chronicle.

Monroe: Monica Horsley, a 4th-grade teacher at the Plantation Key School, has been named the Monroe County School District’s teacher of the year. She’s been an educator for eight years. Key West Citizen. School board members will hear about the district’s high school graduation rates, how CARES funding has been distributed, and discuss budget matters, a new security platform and the air conditioning at Key Largo School during today’s meeting. Key West Citizen.

Jackson: Hannah Wilkes, an 8th-grade teacher at Cottondale High School, has been named the Jackson County School District’s teacher of the year. Other award winners were principal of the year Eddie Ellis and assistant principal of the year Sue Ann Tharp, both of the Marianna K-8 school; school-related employee of the year Nakia Williams, a paraprofessional at the Malone School; and rookie teacher of the year Thomas Burnette of Marianna High School. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: Some University of Florida professors are protesting the school’s plan to develop McCarty Woods, a 2.9-acre conservation area in the middle of the campus, into a new building with classrooms. Gainesville Sun.

Age-limit change: Students who turn 19 on or after July 1 are now eligible for high school sports in the school year that follows after the Florida High School Athletic Association’s assembly approved a change in the bylaws. Previously, students who turned 19 before Sept. 1 were ineligible. The change was proposed to accommodate the expected increase in students held back because of the coronavirus pandemic. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Education choice is the future of the school choice movement. We will know the education choice movement has reached maturity when National School Choice Week is renamed National Education Choice Week. That day is coming — sooner than most people think. Doug Tuthill, redefinED. This School Choice Week, let’s not forget this — kids have different needs. Students will be most happy, challenged and successful when they have school choice. Andrew Campanella, Orlando Sentinel. I understand why teachers want to be vaccinated now. I don’t know that the data justifies it. And given the scarcity of the vaccine, the huge crush of Floridians chasing a limited number of doses — it simply must. Gil Smart, TCPalm. Employees of the Manatee County School District deserve better conduct and representation than they got when school board member Charlie Kennedy posted a vulgar comment on his Twitter account about former president Donald Trump. So do students and their parents, especially from someone who just voted in favor a district-wide civility policy. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It is clear that slowing, stopping and reversing the pandemic-precipitated learning loss is an urgent priority that will take years to accomplish. Ralph Smith, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Operation Warp Speed has shown that the strategy of encouraging innovation and new practices works, and that making many informed little bets produces a better result faster than making one or two big bets through traditional processes. It’s time that we pivot and nurture innovation in public education so more kids can achieve now, and into the future. Robert Kimball, The 74. Tips to survive the college decision season when you’re isolated because of the pandemic. Aarti Kalamangalam, Gainesville Sun.