Weekly teacher testing urged, success stories for a bullied student and a struggling school, and more

Testing for teachers: With the coronavirus in a resurgence in Florida and mutant forms of the virus spreading rapidly, the White House Coronavirus Task Force is recommending that the state’s K-12 teachers and some older students be tested weekly. “All K-12 teachers and older students, community colleges and universities should require weekly testing, as it dramatically decreases COVID-19 viral spread by identifying and isolating the asymptomatic individuals, as well as symptomatic individuals, and allows for contact tracing,” the report urged. “Aggressive mitigation must be used to match a more aggressive virus, moving beyond what worked in the summer to more layered mitigation” such as face masks, social distancing and paying close attention to hygiene protocols. WJXT.

Bullied student finds a home: Schools of choice that are aimed at LGBTQ students being bullied in public schools are springing up and changing lives. In cases like Marquavis Wilson’s in Hollywood, they may also be saving lives. In 4th and 5th grades, Marquavis was tormented because of his sexual identity. His school life was a blur of taunting, fighting and suspensions. His grades fell, and he told his mom, Lamisha Stephens, that he wanted to kill himself.  Stephens secured a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and found a faith-based school, West Park Preparatory School, where the principal told them no bullying or disrespect would be tolerated. The school has been true to its words, and Marquavius is now thinking about a future that may include college and possibly a career in fashion. “If Marquavis hadn’t come to this school,” said Stephens, a part-time supervisor at a delivery company, “he would probably be a dropout. Maybe in jail. Or he wouldn’t be here with us.” redefinED.

Reopening success story: Reopening schools in the fall constituted a leap into the unknown, with the threat of viral transmission and children with masks trying to learn through computers and plexiglass shields. But for Seth Daub, the principal of Catalina Elementary School in Orlando, finding a way through the risks has led to rewards. In-school attendance has gone from 179 in August to 388 in October and 528 this month. Thanks to strict safety protocols, few of the children and employees are getting sick, the children are learning, and Daub is back in the business of trying to lift the long-struggling school to a B grade from the state. Wired.

Around the state: Some eligible Florida school employees will get coronavirus vaccinations this week, Sarasota County is looking for a new school board attorney for the first time in 30 years, and New College receives a $4 million donation. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Central Florida: Eligible employees in the Orange, Seminole and Lake school districts will get their coronavirus vaccinations this week. That includes employees over the age of 65 and medical technicians who work in school clinics when nurses aren’t available. WOFL.

Duval: The school district is partnering with The Players Championship golf tournament and First Tee of North Florida to offer a leadership program for about 30 Duval middle school students, called Rising Leaders of Jax. WJXT.

Manatee: Another 13 students at 13 different schools tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, sending 228 people into quarantine, according to district officials. Since Jan. 4, when students returned after the winter break, 67 coronavirus cases have been reported and 882 people have been placed under quarantine. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: Art Hardy has been the school board’s attorney for 30 years, through the tenures of 10 superintendents and 21 board members. Now he’s retiring, and today the board is interviewing attorneys from five firms for a replacement. A special board session has been set for Jan. 26 to discuss the applicants and make a selection. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Hendry: Ryan Potter, a junior at Clewiston High School, has been named the school district’s Sunshine State Scholar. All the state’s districts select their top 11th grade student in STEM subjects, who then meet April 8-9 in Orlando to participate in a “think tank” about difficult Florida problems. South Florida Central Life.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida has received a donation of $4 million from the estate of Robert and Pasqualina Peterson of Sarasota. It’s the largest gift in the college’s 61-year history. Bradenton Herald.

More on graduation rates: Here are more reports on high school graduation rates in districts around the state. Citrus County Chronicle.

In the Legislature: Legislative committee meetings will continue next week. The House’s Education & Employment Committee meets Jan. 26, and appropriations subcommittees meet Jan. 27. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: Finding a safe and open SAT or ACT testing site continues to be a problem for many American students who need the test scores to qualify for scholarships. For students from low-income families, it’s just another barrier to educational equity. Politico. A federal appeals court has ruled that it’s unconstitutional for the state of Vermont to exclude a student from a Catholic school from a program for students to dual-enroll in college courses at the public’s expense. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Pluralism, diversity, tolerance and a healthy dose of humility are ingredients we need more of in education, and more of in our society in general. Let’s put less stock in our certainty and more effort into a process of discovery. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Science teachers are a critical need in Florida — again. For at least a decade, science has been on the list of Florida Department of Education certification areas that “represent the greatest need among teachers statewide.” Brandon Haught, Florida Citizens for Science. Tens of thousands of Florida students left the public schools in fall 2020 due to the pandemic. However, the numbers of Hispanic and black 4th-graders grew substantially. It’s likely this growth was caused at least in part by the suspension in the spring of FSA testing – and the resulting suspension of the requirement to retain 3rd-graders who cannot pass the FSA tests. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.