Teachers get vaccination priority at Publix, in-state tuition for grandkids, scholarships audit and more

Coronavirus vaccinations: Publix will start prioritizing vaccinations for teachers and other school employees starting Wednesday, the grocery chain announced Monday. The change in emphasis from giving shots to those over the age of 65 was a federal directive that’s intended to expand and streamline access to shots from companies taking part in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Others getting priority shots are licensed child-care providers, and teachers, employees and bus drivers in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Publix will offer both the two-shot Moderna and, later this week, the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccinations. WJXT. WTLV. WPLG. WTVJ. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that all Floridians over the age of 60 will be eligible for coronavirus vaccinations starting March 15. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. WFOR. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. Changing directives and differences between state and federal policies have been confusing for many Floridians. WUSF. WTVJ. WPTV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that people who have been fully vaccinated can gather together indoors without masks or social distancing. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance is a “first step” toward normalizing how people can gather. Associated Press. More than 80,000 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Florida schools since September, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Health data. Florida Phoenix.

In the Legislature: High-achieving students who live out of state would pay in-state college tuition rates if their grandparents live in Florida under a bill passed unanimously Monday by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. To be eligible, students would have to enroll in a state university in the semester after high school graduation and have an SAT score no lower than in the 89th percentile nationally. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. WINK. A bill that would require government employers to confirm that members of public unions, such as teachers unions, have given permission to have union dues withheld from their paychecks was approved Monday by the House Government Operations Subcommittee. News Service of Florida. WJXT. Florida Politics. WFSU. Capitol News Service. Legislators are considering a bill to join the national Purple Star School program. Schools with programs supporting military families could earn the designation, which families can use to help find schools when they move into an area. Pensacola News Journal. A bill that would require children to ride in booster car seats until they’re 6 is under consideration in the Legislature. Capitol News Service.

Scholarship programs audit: The sixth state audit of Step Up For Students’ administration of four state scholarship programs found but a single area that could be improved. SUFS, which hosts this blog, should evaluate the necessity of employees’ access privileges to the database containing Social Security numbers and periodically review the need for continued access, the auditor recommended. In the same report, auditors reviewed non-tuition purchases allowed under the Gardiner Scholarship for students with special needs, and found they were in full compliance with the law. The audit, conducted by the state’s inspector general’s office, covered Gardiner, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students, the Hope Scholarship for bullied students, and the Reading Scholarship Accounts that provide assistance for students struggling with reading. redefinED.

Corcoran on testing: During a virtual roundtable Monday with teachers, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said that testing would proceed because the state needs to know where students stand. “We have to confront the brutal facts, and to know the brutal facts we have to get some sort of measurement,” he said, while hinting that leniency on how the state uses the test results could be in order if the results are poor. “Let’s see where we’re at, and then we will make decisions based on that that are absolutely fair and just,” he said. Florida Politics.

Around the state: The Indian River County School District denies a report that it’s undercounting the numbers of coronavirus cases in schools, the Florida High School Athletic Association will move ahead with reclassification for one year only instead of the usual two years, students will learn remotely all week at a Broward school where a roof partially collapsed over the media center, an Alachua County principal is being demoted instead of fired after a district investigation, and Florida A&M University sets in-person graduations. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Students at Rickards Middle School in Oakland Park will learn from home the rest of this week while engineers try to figure out why the roof over the media center partially collapsed Friday. A water leak is suspected. The work on the roof was part of a $10.5 million repair project. Seven students and two adults who thought there was a school shooting were treated at a hospital for anxiety. WPLG. WSVN.

Tampa Bay area: Black students make up 21 percent of all students in Florida but account for 38 percent of all suspensions, according to Florida Department of Education data. Tampa Bay area educators who study the variances say one of the reasons is implicit bias. WFTS.

Brevard: In a partnership with the school district, the county is offering spring internships to district career and technical education students. Four students have been placed. Space Coast Daily.

Manatee: The district reported a big jump in coronavirus cases on Monday, with 21 people testing positive at 13 schools. Nineteen were students. At least 245 students and employees were sent into quarantine. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: Construction is moving quickly on a new home for the Hershorin-Schiff Community Day School, which is expected to open in August for about 300 K-8 students. In the past 11 months, school leaders decided to move from their current site at Temple Beth Sholom, raised $5.5 million, bought a 9-acre site and began construction on a 45,000-square-foot facility. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Alachua: Archer Elementary School principal Stella Arduser will be demoted following an investigation into allegations that she violated school board policies. She had been accused of ethical misconduct, harassment and threatening behavior toward staff members and improper payroll authorization. Interim Superintendent Carlee Simon said Arduser, who has worked for the district for 17 years, was reassigned to a supervisory position handling media services in the district’s learning resources department. Gainesville Sun.

Indian River: District officials are denying a report that they are underreporting the number of coronavirus cases this school year. In a press release, the district said the report is creating “unnecessary concern during challenging times,” and said that differences in the case-reporting parameters between the district and health department accounts for discrepancies in publicly announced numbers. WPEC.

Monroe: Many people see the state order for the school district to offer five-day-a-week, in-person schooling now or risk the loss of funding as a continuation of the fight over who will control local schools. WLRN.

Colleges and universities: Florida A&M University is planning to have in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies April 23, 24 and 26. Each student can have up to four guests. WTXL. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida State University reported a significant decline in the number of coronavirus cases among students last week, from 38 two weeks ago to 17. Tallahassee Democrat. The decline of 2020 high school graduates going to college because of the coronavirus may be turning around, according to some college counselors who report an increase in the number of applications received. WPTV. Colleges around the country have shortened or eliminate spring breaks as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. That could be bad news for Florida beach cities that rely on the economic boost spring break usually brings. Associated Press.

Sports reclassifications: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted Monday to move ahead with reclassification but make it effective for one year only instead of the standard two years. School enrollment numbers from October 2020 will be used to assign schools to their classifications. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Around the nation: President Joe Biden has ordered a review by the U.S. Department of Education of a Trump administration rule governing how colleges and universities handled allegations of sexual misconduct on campuses. The rules now in place state that “clear and convincing evidence” must be presented as proof of misconduct, which was a stricter interpretation than the Obama administration’s “preponderance” of evidence needed. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, criticized the Obama rules as infringing on due process for the accused. Critics said the Trump policy made it harder to prove claims. Associated Press. Education Week. A two-year study of an intense tutoring program for 9th- and 10th-graders in Chicago showed significant improvements in math test scores and course grades, especially in the second year. The 74.

Opinions on schools: An examination of the male-female achievement gap in Florida public schools found the biggest gaps associated with the lowest-performing schools. One part of reimagining public education moving forward should be new education options for boys. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. On the first anniversary of a cascade of nationwide school shutdowns, we can look back and see that school as we know it has been transformed. Carrie Melago, Chalkbeat. Schools are sometimes the only places of safety for our LGBTQ+ youth. Schools should be welcoming and affirming environments so that all students feel safe, validated, affirmed and have the ability to thrive in an environment where they are best positioned for success. Gina Duncan, Florida Today. A proposed bill that would change the way Bright Futures scholarships are funded would shut out people like me. Eduardo Rondon, Gainesville Sun. Parents should have some control over who gets to see their kids’ school grades, attendance records and other education-related information. School districts shouldn’t turn over that information to just anyone. Tampa Bay Times.