Teachers again denied early vaccinations, COVID spread in schools, Internet problems and more

Teachers and vaccinations: Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated Monday that teachers would have to wait to receive vaccination shots for the coronavirus, despite ongoing pressure from teachers unions to move them up in line. At a news conference, DeSantis answered “not at this time” when asked if educators would be moved up for shots. In making the decision to prioritize residents 65 years or older over teachers and other essential workers that interact frequently with the public, DeSantis broke with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That advice “would not have been the best approach to reduce mortality,” he said, referring to research showing that adults over 65 had the highest risk of dying from the virus. “The average person under 65 in our workforce has been in less risk than our senior population at COVID. We’re going where the risk is greatest.” DeSantis implied that teachers and other essential workers could be given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is expected to be approved within the next month and requires just one shot. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. WKMG. Florida Today. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Coronavirus in schools: Two new studies suggest that reopening schools does not increase the spread of coronavirus cases in areas with already low infection rates and hospitalizations. One of the studies concludes that school reopenings do contribute to the spread in areas with already high infection rates, while the other could not rule out that possibility. Less than half of American students are attending in-person classes. Chalkbeat.

Around the state: The first day back to schools in Broward was beset with connectivity problems, some south Florida private schools will wait to reopen, a new private school in Pasco County offers help for students struggling with addiction, a Bay County high school’s music department has been chosen to participate in the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a companion bill is filed in the Florida House restricting the use of restraints and seclusion on students with special needs, and the state has sent letters to tens of thousands of students struggling with online learning that urge those students to return to classrooms. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward, south Florida: The first day back at school in Broward County was derailed with widespread Internet connectivity issues. Remote learners couldn’t log into their platforms until late in the day. District officials declined to describe how many students were affected, but issued a statement late Monday afternoon that said: “We believe the districtwide Internet access issue has been resolved. Additional validation testing will continue throughout the evening.” Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. Several south Florida private schools are delaying a return to classrooms because they’re worried about a post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases. WTVJ. New school boards in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are younger, more female and more diverse than past ones. “Traditionally, government and elected roles are something that’s held for older white gentlemen, and that’s what it’s been,” said Alexandria Ayala, a 27-year-old of Hispanic descent who was elected in November to the Palm Beach board. “We are changing and breaking down barriers of who is allowed to run, who has the pedigree to run, who has the look to run.” WLRN.

Lee: About 6,500 students who had been learning remotely will begin returning to classrooms when district schools reopen today. Students trabnsferring from Lee Home Connect will resume in-person learning Jan. 11, and students leaving the Lee Virtual program return Feb. 1. WFTX.

Pasco: Negotiating teams for the district and the teachers union are optimistic that a contract agreement will be reached within a week. Talks had been on hold until the state announced it would continue to fully fund both in-person and remote learning classes in the second semester, which begins Wednesday. Details of the district’s latest proposal were not made available at Monday’s meeting. Tampa Bay Times. A new school has opened that offers help for students who are struggling with addiction. Nine teens make up the first class at Victory High School, which is located inside the Calvary Chapel Worship Center in New Port Richey. WTVT. Bay News 9.

Osceola: Andrew Moon has been named the principal at the Osceola Science Charter School in Kissimmee. He had been an assistant principal for instruction at the Orlando Science School system’s middle school campus. Osceola News-Gazette.

Volusia: A former district employee is suing the Volusia County School Board, alleging his job was eliminated last May after he claimed the implementation of the district’s new computer systems was beset with financial mismanagement and malfeasance. Two months later Alex Kennedy, who was the assistant director of applications and infrastructure, filed a complaint with the state. In October, the Florida Department of Education dismissed the complaint. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Classes don’t resume until Wednesday, but 29 students and employees at Manatee High School have been placed under quarantine after they were exposed Monday to a student who tested positive for the coronavirus. Between the first day of school and the last day before the winter break, the district reported 419 coronavirus cases. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: A 16-year-old Eustis High School student was arrested Monday and charged with possessing a firearm on school grounds. Deputies said a teacher found the boy’s backpack in a classroom, and discovered the semi-automatic gun when she was searching the backpack to see who it belonged to. It had a bullet in the chamber and three others in the magazine, but deputies said they don’t believe the student intended to harm anyone. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Leon: About 250 district students and dozens of employees tested positive for the coronavirus over the winter break, according to county health officials. School officials said since no one has been on district campuses for 17 days, no changes are being made in school operations. Students return to classes today. WTXL. WCTV.

Okaloosa: Christine Cruickshank will become the principal at Destin High School when the charter school opens next fall. She is currently the assistant principal of the Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College, which is also a charter high school, and a part-time professor of history at the college since 2008. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Bay: Bay High School’s music department, band and choir will represent the state at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade on Dec. 7, which marks the 80th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of the naval base in Hawaii. Panama City News Herald.

In the Legislature: State Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale, has filed a companion bill to a Senate proposal that would limit the use of restraints on students with disabilities and ban schools from placing those students in seclusion. The Senate bill was filed Dec. 7 by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation. Florida Politics.

Around the nation: In her farewell letter to Congress, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was critical of the nation’s educational system and its response to the pandemic, and urged that members reject President-elect Joe Biden’s education agenda. Associated Press. Sixty percent of U.S. parents said they would have their children vaccinated against the coronavirus, while 25 percent said they would not and 15 percent are unsure, according to a survey by the National Parents Union. K-12 Dive. How much of an impact will the nearly $82 billion set aside for education from the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress in December have? Chalkbeat.

Opinions on schools: Florida has a very large edge over New York in providing better quality public services per public dollar invested, including in education. Florida policymakers can expand this advantage in 2021. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an unprecedented opportunity to rethink education in America. Instead of hoping for a return to “normal,” let’s learn from what has worked – and what has not – to make lasting improvements and create a more resilient system, one that can adapt to any challenge families may face in the future. Adam Peshak, redefinED. The lived experiences of our next U.S. Department of Education secretary, Miguel Cardona, align with a reality of public education today and into the future. That is no small matter. Mary Sanchez, Orlando Sentinel. The continuation of online teaching at the University of Florida will save lives. Martin Gold, Gainesville Sun.