Conflicting advice on face masks in schools, report clears superintendent, school guardians and more

Contrasting views on school masks: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent guidance recommends that anyone who isn’t vaccinated should wear masks in schools in the fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics’s most recent guidance recommends that everyone over the age of 2 should wear masks in schools, regardless of their vaccination status. Guidance is becoming increasingly important as coronavirus rates are soaring in the state. So with a few weeks before classes resume, what’s a school district to make of the conflicting advice? Most in Florida are sticking with their masks-optional policy for the coming school year, but said that could change if infection rates continue to climb. Florida Phoenix. CNN. NBC News. Education Week.

Around the state: Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis has been cleared of ethics charges by a district investigation, Santa Rosa County School Board members are being pressured to supplement school security by starting a guardians program, the Cape Coral Charter School Authority is in a financial bind and is asking the Lee County School District for a share of that district’s sales tax revenues, and University of South Florida President Steve Currall cited health concerns for his decision to resign just two years into his tenure. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: Investigators hired by the school district have concluded that Superintendent Addison Davis did not act improperly when he recommended a multimillion dollar contract go to a company that employs his brother or when he cut back on the number of teachers to save money. The investigators were hired after a parent’s complaint to the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General. Tampa Bay Times. A Jesuit High School student turned a school project into a movement to help with food insecurity among poor El Salvador families. Max Jeffrey, a rising senior, is raising $10,000 to build greenhouses so families can grow food year-round. The greenhouses can maintain warmer temperatures in the cool mountainous region of Los Naranjos, and protect crops from pests and the weather. WTVT.

Orange: Citing rising coronavirus rates and new advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, teachers union officials said they want the school board to consider requiring universal masking. Just last week, board members voted 7-1 to make masks optional for the coming school year. The next school board meetings are July 27 and Aug. 10. “The AAP said universal masking is necessary because much of the student population is not vaccinated, and it’s hard for schools to determine who is as new variants emerge that might spread more easily among children,” union officials said in a Facebook post. WKMG.

Palm Beach: A new law requiring schools to provide CPR training to students can trace its beginning to the day in 2019 when an 18-year-old cook at a Boynton Beach Chick-fil-A used CPR to save the life of a man who went into cardiac arrest during lunch. Sarah Van Roekel, who had learned CPR in middle school and became certified while in the Medical Sciences Academy Program at Boynton Beach High, stepped up to do chest compressions on Ed Kosiec until paramedics arrived. Both later testified on behalf of the bill, which was unanimously approved by the Legislature and signed into law June 21. It went into effect July 1. Palm Beach Post.

Lee: The Cape Coral Charter School Authority is in a financial bind and is asking the Lee County School District for help. Charter authorities said their schools need renovations, replacement buses, new playgrounds and new technology but don’t have the money and are asking Lee officials for a share of their half-cent sales tax revenue. “We’re finding that the revenue streams that come in do not keep up with inflation, and they just don’t pay the bills any longer,” said Superintendent Jacquelin Collins. WINK.

Escambia: One of the county’s most popular summer programs is the Central Gulf Coast Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Pensacola, which offers a six-week session with intensive reading instruction. Thirty students who were reading below grade level were selected for the program. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: Enrollment for the Leon County Virtual School has been reopened, with a deadline of Sept. 15. The announcement was made after the Florida Virtual School extended registration until Aug. 13 for K-8 students. WCTV. Tallahassee Democrat.

Santa Rosa: Officials with the school district and sheriff’s office have resisted using guardians in schools, opting to have a sworn law enforcement officer in every school. But there’s increasing pressure from the community to add guardians, who are armed individuals but not sworn officers. Guardians can be teachers, administrators or others hired to help guard schools. Guardians have less training than officers, and cannot make arrests or intervene in fights. Forty-three of Florida’s 67 counties have a guardians program, and 38 — including Santa Rosa — use only school resource officers. Pensacola News Journal.

Martin: School officials are holding a job fair Wednesday, where they hope to fill most of the district’s 168 open positions. Fifty of those jobs are for teachers, and other open positions include bus drivers, food service workers and paraprofessionals. “We want all of our students to have a classroom teacher that is in the classroom on the first day of school. That’s always a goal each and every year,” said district spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo. WPTV.

Jackson: Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the county, but school officials said they are sticking with their decision to emphasize in-person learning when schools reopen. “We’ve already been through it one time, with the online and homeschooling or whatever,” said Superintendent Steve Benton. “We know what has to be done if it comes down to it.” WMBB.

Colleges and universities: Just two years after accepting the presidency of the University of South Florida, Steve Currall has announced he’s stepping down Aug. 2. “The intensity of the past two years has put a strain on my health and my family,” Currall, 62, said in a message to faculty, staff, students and alumni. “Therefore, after thoughtful reflection, I have decided to retire from the USF presidency to ensure that I preserve my health, as well as to spend more time with my wife, Cheyenne, and my 91-year-old father.” Provost Ralph Wilcox will be the acting president until the board of trustees can vote on an interim president. Tampa Bay Times. Bay News 9. WUSF. John Delaney, the former president of the University of North Florida, has been named the interim president at Flagler College while the school conducts a national search for a permanent successor to the retiring Joseph Joyner. St. Augustine Record. Colleges in Manatee and Sarasota counties are relaxing their COVID precautions for the fall semester. Students won’t have to wear masks or get vaccinated. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Senate president on education: Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, talks about the past legislative session, including bolstering career education. “If you’re going to break generational poverty in this state, you’re going to do it because you’ve got the right K-12 system. … We are funding vocational work opportunities all over the state.” WUSF.

Around the nation: Arianne Craig Jolla, who quit her job as a public school teacher in frustration because she was expected to “teach to the test,” decided to start her own school. So HYPE (Helping Young People Excel) Academy was born as a place where students set their own learning goals for each day and spend part of each day talking about current events. Project Forever Free.

Opinions on schools: The reason why a teachers union president would abandon her usual buzz phrases in favor of language consistently used by the school choice movement is clear: teachers union reputation is at an all-time low after a year of terrible decisions, and the entire country wants choice right now. Nathan Cunneen, redefinED. The 2020s were always going to be a challenging decade for American K-12, and the chaotic opening to the decade should not overly distract us from understanding the bigger picture issues. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.