Teacher vaccinations: The CVS Pharmacy chain has begun offering coronavirus vaccinations to Florida teachers and other school employees of any age. In doing so, the company said it was following federal guidance issued this week that calls for shots for all school workers as soon as possible, and disregarding Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order that restricted vaccine eligibility to K-12 teachers and other school employees over the age of 50. “We’ve aligned with updated Federal Retail Pharmacy Program guidelines by making appointments available to pre-K through 12 educators and staff and childcare workers in all 17 states where we currently offer COVID-19 vaccines,” the Rhode Island-based company said in a statement. DeSantis’ office declined to comment on the pharmacy’s decision. Associated Press. Miami Herald. WSVN. WPTV. WKMG. WOFL.
In the Legislature: Out-of-state high school students whose grandparents are Florida residents would be eligible for in-state university tuition under a bill that was approved Wednesday by the House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee. News Service of Florida. A bill that would prevent the arrest of any Florida child under the age of 7 was approved by the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs. The bill is a response to the widely reported handcuffing and arrest of a 6-year-old girl in her school in 2019. Florida Politics. An amendment to parental rights bills (S.B. 582 and H.B. 241) that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee could put a crimp on the Pasco County School District’s sharing of student records with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. “Parents should have to affirmatively consent to allowing the school district to release their child’s grades to local law enforcement,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who sponsored the amendment. Capitol News Service. News Service of Florida. The House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee approved a measure intended to change pre-K accountability by closing the Office of Early Learning and creating a Division of Early Learning at the Department of Education and develop a new system to track student progress through 8th grade. Politico Florida.
Around the state: Officials at a Duval high school cancel meetings on diversity and inclusion after being criticized because the meetings would have been segregated by race, a group of school superintendents is asking the state to request an accountability waiver for standardized test results from the federal government, school districts around the state are moving ahead with more traditional graduation and prom plans while students at Manatee High School walk out of classes to protest a district decision to limit them to two tickets for guests to their graduations, Hillsborough commissioners are considering ending impact fee discounts, Sarasota school officials said their mental health program has cut down on the number of students Baker-Acted while Citrus County is looking into why the number of students involuntarily committed rose in February, Nassau County teachers reach an agreement with the district about pay raises, and Flagler School Board members said school face-mask rules will continue the rest of this academic year. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Hillsborough: County commissioners are considering eliminating discounts on impact fees for transportation and parks before the Legislature can consider a bill that would restrict future fee increases to 3 percent a year. The fees on new homes help pay for schools, roads and other services required for new developments and businesses. If commissioners move forward with their plan, fees could go up from $5,094 for a single-family home to as much as $9,183. Tampa Bay Times. Two school board members who had been having very public disagreements about procedures and the structure of school board meetings and discussions arranged a truce Wednesday at a school board retreat. Tampa Bay Times. A former Benito Middle School teacher who was acquitted last week of charges that he had sex with a student talks about the allegations, which cost him his job. WTVT.
Palm Beach: School officials are planning to hold in-person high school graduations at the South Florida Fairgrounds that would include masks, social distancing, no handshakes and fewer guests for each senior than in past years. Thirty-two ceremonies would be held in 16 days in early June. “Participating in a graduation ceremony for a student is probably the most memorable educational experience, and losing that last year was devastating for us as a district. To be able to put that back in place this year is a gift that our students and families will remember forever,” said deputy superintendent Keith Oswald. Palm Beach Post.
Duval: A meeting scheduled for today at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts to discuss diversity and inclusion was canceled after it was reported that there would be two meetings, one for white students and another for students of color. The disclosure drew heavy criticism, with several pointing out the hypocrisy of separating races in order to talk about inclusion. “We now realize that the communication around the event and the manner in which the event itself was organized are contrary to our values and to the goals we have for improving our culture,” principal Melanie Hammer wrote in a followup email to parents. “Therefore, we are revisiting our approach with our consultants and will develop a new strategy for leading our students through these sensitive topics and conversations.” Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX.
Polk: Lemuel Lamar Geathers Sr., a longtime teacher who helped lead the racial integration of Polk County schools, had a hand in creating what is now Polk State College and became the first elected black city commissioner in Winter Haven, died Tuesday at the age of 95. Lakeland Ledger.
Pasco: Coronavirus vaccinations have been scheduled Saturday for school district employees over the age of 50. About 2,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine are available, and the second dose will be administered April 2. Tampa Bay Times.
Seminole: District officials have announced that high school graduations will be held at the 45,000-seat University of Central Florida football stadium. The news was a relief to families who feared attendance would be strictly limited. “The stadium is very large and we will be able to accommodate many more guests for each graduating class,” said Superintendent Walt Griffin. Dates and times will be set later. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel.
Manatee: About 100 students at Manatee High School walked out of classes Wednesday to protest the district’s decision to limit each graduating senior to two tickets for guests. District officials said the ticket limit was set so social distancing guidelines could be met. “I just want people to understand that we’re not trying to be selfish and break COVID rules,” said senior Tori Towns. “We just want our families to be there to watch our proudest moment in life.” The school board is expected to review the proposed graduation dates and rules at a meeting Tuesday. Bradenton Herald. Two of the three remaining candidates to become interim county administrator have ties to the school district. Scott Hopes is a current school board member, and Rick Mills is the district’s former superintendent. The third is Dom DiMaio, who is president and CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance. County commissioners are expected to make a choice by March 23. Yourobserver.com.
St. Johns: District officials said they are considering ending the school-based virtual learning option for remote students next fall. If they do, students would either attend schools in-person or take classes through the St. Johns Virtual School, which has its own teachers. WJXT.
Sarasota: The school district’s new mental health intervention process for students has been successful in cutting the number of involuntary commitments through the Baker Act from 166 in the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year to 108 in the current school year. Students struggling with their emotions now most often are directed to a mental health professional for treatment instead of simply being detained. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. School officials said it could be a couple of more weeks before decisions are made about graduations, proms and whether remote learning will continue to be offered in the next school year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Marion: Five Lake Weir High School students and a school employee were taken to a hospital for treatment Wednesday after a malfunctioning air conditioner sent fumes into a classroom. “Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in this incident. We did have a large emergency response with dozens of police and fire vehicles on campus … all to ensure everyone was safe,” said principal Colleen Wade. WKMG. WOFL. WESH. Ocala Star-Banner.
St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: Officials in the three Treasure Coast school districts are working on plans for more traditional graduations and proms, a year after most were canceled or delayed because of the pandemic. Safety protocols will remain in place. TCPalm. A 16-year-old has been arrested and accused of bringing a gun onto the campus of the Dale Cassens Education Complex in Fort Pierce. The unloaded gun was found in a trash can, and deputies said the boy admitted bringing the stolen weapon to school. WPTV. WPEC. TCPalm.
Northwest Florida: Some teachers under the age of 50 in northwest Florida and elsewhere in the state said they are making coronavirus vaccination appointments in Alabama because it’s offering shots to all teachers and doesn’t have a residency requirement. Vaccinations in Florida are limited to teachers and school workers over 50 under an executive order issued by Gov. DeSantis. WEAR.
Leon: School district employees will have the opportunity to be vaccinated against the coronavirus on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the health department. Appointment windows have been set by the first letter in the last name of the employee. Employees will need to show a driver’s license and their district ID badge. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV. Spring sports teams teams will now be permitted to travel out of the county for sporting events, district officials announced Wednesday. WTXL.
Bay: The school district is offering summer school to any student who needs to make up credits, and is picking up the fee for SAT testing March 24 for juniors and seniors. WMBB. More than 70 dresses were donated for students to use at the Bay High School prom being held this Friday. The school partnered with the Chautaugua Charter School to hold a free prom dress pop-up shop. WJHG. WMBB.
Citrus: The number of district students involuntarily committed under the Baker Act rose in February, and school officials are reviewing the incidents to try to understand why. Thirty-four students were taken into custody last month, compared to 25 in December and 23 in January. Citrus County Chronicle.
Flagler: Existing protections against the spread of the coronavirus, including the mandatory wearing of face masks in schools, will continue at least through the end of the academic year, school board members decided this week. Three of the five board members agreed to continue the current COVID protocols. Board member Janet McDonald advocated for an end to the mask policy, claiming masks make people sick, and board member Jill Woolbright did not take a position. Flagler Live.
Nassau: The school district and teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a contract providing salary increases. The minimum salary would become $45,242, up from $40,000, and veteran teachers will receive $1,522 raises. That’s more than twice the pay bump for veteran teachers from the earlier agreement, which was rejected by 84 percent of teachers. WJXT. WTLV.
Monroe: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against several school district employees over the 2018 arrest of an 8-year-old student at Gerald Adams Elementary School. The judge ruled that the suit may continue against the city of Key West, the police department and three of its officers. The boy was arrested after striking a substitute teacher in the chest. Officers tried to handcuff the boy, but the cuffs were too large. His felony charge was dropped in a plea agreement. Key West Citizen.
Colleges and universities: The University of South Florida in Tampa is planning on holding in-person classes and resuming normal student activities in the fall, but will continue to offer online classes. WFTS. Tampa Bay Times.
Testing waivers: A group of state school superintendents urged Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Wednesday to ask the federal government for accountability waivers on students’ standardized testing results. Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego, who is the president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said that the U.S. Department of Education is “inviting states to seek certain waivers to be as flexible as possible in both the administration of those assessments and the ways in which the results are used.” News Service of Florida. The federal government’s declaration that standardized testing must happen this spring has prompted states to ask for waivers and look for loopholes. Chalkbeat.
Around the nation: Parents most often give K-12 schools online reviews based on student test scores instead of other measures such as overall effectiveness, according to a study by the American Educational Research Association. The report also found that urban schools and schools with more affluent parents were more likely to be reviewed. K-12 Dive.
Education podcasts: Michael Barrett, the Florida Catholic Conference’s associate for education, talks with Step Up For students president Doug Tuthill about how the group is trying to balance its religious practices and beliefs while maintaining an open and welcome environment for all students, and how S.B. 48 can help. redefinED.
Opinions on schools: The bill that would end the state pension system is a sure-fire way to worsen the teacher shortage in Florida. Nancy Hosie, TCPalm. In the 1960s, Fidel Castro told students and parents what school choices to make. Now Florida Republicans are doing the same thing by proposing to tie financial aid to a student’s choice of majors. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. In order to move toward transformation, during what we know is still an extraordinarily difficult time, schools should consider how they can continue a hybrid model long after we all receive the COVID vaccine. Peter DeWitt, Education Week. How bad is the “COVID slide” in Treasure Coast schools, and how can the kids make up lost ground? Gil Smart, TCPalm. Rezoning schools is a complex undertaking, but the Alachua County School Board can take seize the opportunity to close the gap between black and white student test scores. Jackie Davis, Gainesville Sun.