Around the state: Duval County’s superintendent recommends renaming six schools that carry the names of Confederate officials, St. Johns County school officials say they will appoint a committee to review the district’s dress code and recommend changes, more districts are changing their mandatory face mask policy or say they plan to, expanded summer school programs are proposed in several school districts, Manatee school board member Scott Hopes will resign his seat next week to become the county administrator, and a citizens’ initiative has been proposed to make the state education commissioner an elected position and give it cabinet-level status. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: Jim Rigg, the new cabinet secretary of education and superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Miami, talks about the value of educational choice and his vision for Catholic schools in south Florida. redefinED.
Broward: The district is expanding its summer learning program tenfold to help those students who did not make adequate academic progress during the pandemic. All students are being encouraged to attend the “summer experience,” as it’s being called. Daniel Gohl, the district’s chief academic officer, said the planning for the summer program began in December, when it was announced that almost 60,000 out of the 260,000 students were not meeting academic standards. Miami Herald. District officials said they are investigating an allegation by a 13-year-old Deerfield Beach Middle School student that he is being physically and verbally abused by other students because he’s gay. In a statement, the district said, “The school’s leadership is taking this incident seriously and is working with law enforcement in its investigation. Any students involved will also face appropriate school disciplinary consequences in accordance with the code book for school conduct.” WPLG.
Palm Beach: Seven teachers are this year’s winners of the school district’s Dwyer Award for Excellence in Education. Almost 450 teachers were nominated, and the seven winners emerged from a list of 28 finalists. Palm Beach Post. The school board is expected to decide today if it will amend the district’s proposed equity statement to remove a reference to “white advantage.” WPTV.
Orange: Parents protested at Tuesday’s school board meeting against the face mask mandate, demanding an end to the policy now or to make masks optional. District officials said they have to follow a process to change the policy, beginning with a June 1 meeting with members of the medical advisory committee. A public hearing will be held June 17, and the board will decide on the mask policy July 13. WESH. The former band director at Winter Park High School has been sentenced to five years in prison for using a child for a sexual performance and five counts of possessing child porn. Christopher Michael Blackmer performed sex acts with a former student in 2018 and 2019, recorded them and shared the video and images. WKMG.
Duval: Superintendent Diana Greene has recommended that the school board approve new names for six schools that are named after Confederate officials. Those schools are Joseph Finegan Elementary, which would become Anchor Academy; Stonewall Jackson Elementary to Hidden Oaks Elementary; Jefferson Davis Middle to Charger Academy; Kirby-Smith Middle to Springfield Middle; J.E.B. Stuart Middle to Westside Middle; and Robert E. Lee High to Riverside High. She does not propose changes for three other schools that carry the names of Andrew Jackson and Jean Ribault. School board members will accept or reject Greene’s recommendations at their June 1 meeting. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. Face masks will not be mandatory in schools for the 2021-2022 school year and this summer session, school board members decided Tuesday. Other safety protocols, such as social distancing, hand sanitizer stations and desk shields in elementary schools, will continue to be used. The district also announced it was ending its Duval HomeRoom virtual learning platform, which allowed students to attend classes in their own schools in real time but from home on the computer. The changes take effect June 7. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV.
Lee: School officials are recommending that a controversial poster explaining the district’s LGBTQ policies be removed from school bathrooms as part of the proposed changes in the student code of conduct. District officials promised at Tuesday’s meeting to hold a public hearing to collect community input before putting the new code of conduct up to a school board vote. WINK. WFTX.
Manatee: School board members signaled their intent at Tuesday’s meeting to make face masks optional, but can’t do so until Friday because of the board’s bylaws requiring a certain number of days after filing a notice to change a policy before it can take effect. The decision was preceded by hours of public comment, most of it against the district’s mandatory mask policy. Bradenton Herald. The Manatee County Commission has voted to hire school board member Scott Hopes as the new county administrator. The appointment takes effect immediately and continues through June 1, 2022, unless it’s extended by commissioners. Hope will resign his school board seat June 2, and Gov. Ron DeSantis will appoint a replacement. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Politics. WWSB. Seven schools will get new assistant principals, district officials announced Tuesday after the school board approved the changes on Monday. The appointments are effective July 1. Bradenton Herald.
St. Johns: School board members agreed Tuesday to conduct appoint a committee to consider and recommend changes to the district’s student dress code. Among the suggested changes: removing the word “immodest,” changing the requirement that skirts and shorts be no more than 4 inches above the knee with a guideline that they “shall not be shorter than fingertip length or mid-thigh, whichever is shorter,” requiring shirts to cover the entire shoulder and midriff, and move toward a gender-neutral policy. St. Augustine Record. WTLV. WJAX. WJXT.
Sarasota: School officials have posted their annual survey “to measure the perceptions, opinions, and feelings related to the environment at a specific school, workplace, or department. Survey areas of focus include curriculum, communication, parent involvement, and school safety, among others,” the district said. The survey is anonymous, and will be available on the district’s web page until 4 p.m. June 11. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Five district teachers have won Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation’s “Ripple Effect” awards given to teachers who are most likely to be remembered by their students 30 years from now. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Leon: School board members discussed changes to the mandatory face mask policy, but declined to alter the policy until after the end of this school year. The next logical date for a possible change would be June 28, when summer school starts. Superintendent Rocky Hanna said about 1,400 students have signed up so far. WTXL.
Alachua: Superintendent Carlee Simon’s plan to reorganize the district administration could add up to $2.7 million in extra costs, according to documentation of the plan, which has been tentatively approved by the school board. Among the changes: Adding new positions, including a police chief who will supervise a coordinator of emergency management and a cybersecurity supervisor; removing several assistant superintendent positions, replacing most with administrators who will be called directors or chiefs; and hiring a chief of equity, inclusion and community engagement, and a director of student wellness and professional services. Gainesville Sun. Pamela Bedford, the director of the Institute of Culinary arts at Eastside High School in Gainesville, is one of four finalists in the United States for the 2021 chef educator of the year award sponsored by the American Culinary Federation. Gainesville Sun.
Santa Rosa, northwest Florida: The school district’s program to help homeless students and their families has been so successful that it’s being replicated by at least five other school districts. Tenant-Based Rental Assistance was started in 2017 in partnership with the Florida Housing Finance Corp. and Opening Doors of Northwest Florida. It provides a voucher for rental assistance, and students have access to caseworkers and tutoring. Pensacola News Journal. Superintendent Karen Barber said rumors that the district’s schools are teaching critical race theory are not true. WEAR. The Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa school districts are expanding their summer learning programs this year to help struggling students catch up. WEAR.
Bay: Face masks have been made optional for students and employees under policy changes approved by the school board. Quarantine rules were also changed. Ten-day quarantines are required for students or employees not wearing a mask if they have been within 6 feet of anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus for more than 15 minutes, those wearing a mask but coming within 3 feet of someone who tests positive, andanyone in a mask who comes within 6 feet of an infected person and later shows COVID symptoms. WMBB. WJHG. Changes in the district’s dress code have been proposed by administrators. Tops must have sleeves and no v-necks are permitted. Leggings and yoga pants are allowed for pre-K through 5th-grade students, but not for 6th through 12th, and flipflops are prohibited. WMBB.
Hernando: School board members have approved Superintendent John Stratton’s recommendation to end the face mask mandate in schools June 18. Masks will be voluntary at graduations, summer school, school-hosted summer camps and for the 2021-2022 academic year. WTSP. Tampa Bay Times.
Indian River: Face masks become optional in district schools beginning June 1, the school board decided Tuesday. “We need to make the decision now so families who are uncomfortable (with the change) have enough time to make a decision” about next school year, Superintendent David Moore told the board. “Waiting to make a decision is hurting those who need that additional time.” Students attending summer school will still have to wear masks on school buses if social distancing can’t be maintained. TCPalm. School board members approved Moore’s administrative reorganization plan Tuesday. Moore decided to do away with the unfilled position of chief equity and diversity officer, and instead is creating the position of assistant superintendent of student affairs, advocacy and access, which would supervise a coordinator of equity, a coordinator of parental and community involvement, and a community liaison. TCPalm.
Colleges and universities: Palm Beach State College will split the $71 million it’s receiving in federal coronavirus aid, with half going to students and the other half being used to improve air quality in classrooms and to provide high-quality virtual classes. Palm Beach Post. Among the budget “turkeys” that Florida TaxWatch is urging Gov. DeSantis to veto is $25 million for the Pasco-Hernando State College Center for Student Success and Community Engagement. It made the list because the amount approved was double what was requested. WUSF.
Ballot amendments: At least seven citizens’ initiatives are in the process of trying to qualify for the 2022 ballot, including one that would make the education commissioner an elected position that would be a member of the governor’s cabinet. To put the issue before voters, organizers would have to collect 891,589 valid petition signatures and get the proposed ballot wording approved by the Florida Supreme Court. News Service of Florida.
Around the nation: Moderna officials said Tuesday that trials have shown its coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective in children as young as 12 years old. About 3,700 children between the ages of 12 and 17 participated in the trials. The company reported 93 percent effectiveness after one shot and 100 percent after two. It will submit the data to the FDA in June and ask for authorization to begin administering the shots. Associated Press. Politico. Twenty-seven states have lifted face mask requirements in schools, according to Burbio, a website that has tracked school reopening policies throughout the pandemic. Those states have about 51 percent of the nation’s public school enrollment. The 74.
Opinions on schools: The Pasco County School Board and the sheriff’s office announced this month that they ended their highly controversial surveillance agreement. But instead of ending the program that polices Pasco children, the school board revised the agreement and made a few cosmetic changes, while maintaining the sheriff’s considerable access to private student data. Albert Fox Cahn and Nina Borders, Tampa Bay Times. As legislative sessions across the country wrap up, it is worth pausing to underscore just how massive the wins for the educational choice movement have been this year in Florida and other states. Mike McShane, Forbes. The bill protecting fairness in women’s sports preserves the values of fairness and hard work that athletic competition instills in our children and teenagers. The difference in male and female physiology has tangible effects in the world of sports; it’s why we separate sports based on sex in the first place. Ignoring those meaningful biological differences denies women opportunities to succeed. Denise Harle, Sun Sentinel.