Kindergarten challenges, conflict resolution, COVID cases, educator bonuses, new charter and more

Around the state: Education experts say kindergarten teachers will face greater challenges than usual this fall because the pandemic kept so many of the incoming students from receiving the typical pre-K preparation, the Miami-Dade School Board approves a conflict resolution program for K-12 students, central Florida health officials say the recent spike in coronavirus cases is a compelling reason for middle and high school students to be vaccinated now, Jacksonville University is partnering with IDEA Public Schools to build a K-12 charter school, Gov. Ron DeSantis insists $1,000 bonuses for educators are “good to go” but there are still questions, and for many teachers summer is a time to find a second job to supplement their income. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A new conflict resolution program for K-12 students won the approval of the school board this week. The idea is to create places where students with disagreements can resolve them before the conflict turns violent. Teachers in all grades would also be taught conflict resolutions skills. Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, a former teacher and principal, introduced the item, saying, “I’m still from Liberty City and the projects. It is so needed. And, I know all of you sitting out there know it’s needed.” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will look into ways to integrate conflict resolution programs into all schools and grades, and report back to the board Sept. 1. Miami Herald.

Central Florida: With the number of coronavirus cases in Florida jumping 200 percent in the past two weeks and hospitalization rates rising, leading health officials in central Florida said middle and high school students should get their vaccinations now so they’ll be at least partially protected when schools reopen. “School starts in early August. If you were to get a Pfizer vaccine [today], you’d have to wait two weeks for your second dose,” said Dr. Michael Keating of AdventHealth for Children. “It doesn’t make you bulletproof against the COVID virus, but what it does is basically puts Kevlar on you.” Orlando Sentinel.

Duval: Jacksonville University is partnering with Texas-based IDEA Public Schools to build a K-12 charter school on a 30-acre field next to the university. Construction begins in the fall, with the expectation that the school will open in phases by the fall of 2022. About 500 students in grades 1, 2 and 6 will open the school, with more grades added every year until it’s a K-12 campus with 1,500 students. The school will offer free technology, transportation and after-school programs. WJAX.

Brevard: For some district teachers, summer is a time to relax and recharge to get ready for the next school year. For many others, it’s a time to get a second job to supplement their income. Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School teacher Susie Surloff has a master’s degree and has taught for 28 years, but she’s waiting tables this summer to supplement her $55,000 teaching salary. She said every teacher she knows works a second job, except those who have spouses or partners who also work. Florida has been pushing to raise starting teacher salaries to $47,500, but veteran teachers were largely excluded from that initiative. The average Florida teacher makes $49,102 a year, which ranks 49th in the nation. Florida Today.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: Education experts said kindergarten teachers will face greater challenges than usual because the pandemic kept so many of the incoming students from receiving the typical pre-K preparation. “We are aware that a lot of children were in homes that were under a lot of stress because of the pandemic, (and) we have students who’ve been socially isolated throughout this time,” said St. Lucie chief academic officer Helen Wild. “Those students have to readjust to being back together.” TCPalm. The Indian River County Commission will start redrawing districts next month, which will affect school board boundaries since they typically correspond to the commission’s. Any changes could also have an impact on school board members, who must live in the districts they’re elected to represent. TCPalm.

Sarasota: Superintendent Brennan Asplen has said over and over that critical race theory is not taught in district schools. But for a segment of parents, the denials are not enough. They simply don’t trust the district. “You can tell me all year long, ‘We’re not doing it, we’re not doing it,’ and I don’t believe you,” said one speaker at this week’s school board meeting. Asplen said the district is compiling a curriculum guide so parents can look over the content and materials teachers are using. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: The Escambia County School District is proposing to raise the daily pay for substitute teachers by $10 to $22 a day when schools resume. Under the proposal, which the school board will consider next month, subs with a master’s or a doctorate degree would earn $105 a day, an increase of $22. Subs with a high school diploma would be paid $75 a day, or an increase of $10.12. The raises would cost the district up to $500,000 next year, said Superintendent Tim Smith. “We want to attract more substitute teachers because we need them,” he said. “They’re so important to us. They keep things going.” Pensacola News Journal. The Stuff the Bus drive to collect school supplies for students in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties has begun, and organizers said the need is greater than ever this year. The drive last year, held virtually because of the pandemic, collected $50,000 in supplies for Escambia students and enough to fill more than 1,000 backpacks in Santa Rosa. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: Maurice Stokes, who had been principal at James Shanks Middle School in Gadsden County, has been hired as the principal at John G. Riley Elementary School in Tallahassee. He replaces April Knight, who has taken the job of Title I director for the district. Tallahassee Democrat.

Flagler: The mother of a 17-year-old girl who committed suicide in 2019 has filed a wrongful death suit against the school board. Carissa Jackson said her daughter, Shauntiana Stafford, had been bullied and harassed at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and that school officials did nothing to protect her. The district denies the allegations. Flagler Live.

Educator bonuses: Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is “good to go” to distribute $1,000 bonuses to 180,000 teachers and principals using federal coronavirus aid, but the U.S. Department of Education said the plan violated federal rules for spending the aid and no resolution has been announced. The state can use money from other federal funds for the bonuses, but an analysis from the Florida Policy Institute suggests there isn’t enough to cover the $216 million cost of the bonuses program without making other budget adjustments. Politico Florida.

Money for struggling schools: Twenty-nine school districts have 149 schools that appear on the state’s list of schools that are in the bottom 5 percent based on academic performance and will split $44 million in grants from the federal government. Chosen schools will get up to $100,000 for a literacy coach, up to $100,000 for a strategic initiatives coach, and as much as $30,000 for teacher training and instructional materials. Some teachers at the schools rated as highly effective could also get an extra $15,000, while principals are eligible for up to $45,000 for performance, recruitment and retention, and one assistant principal at each school may qualify for up to $10,000 for recruitment and retention. Lakeland Ledger. WCJB. WJXT. Ocala Star-Banner.

Farm-to-school: Three Florida school districts and the Tampa YMCA will receive federal grants to “provide more locally grown produce to students and provide education on nutrition through hands-on learning experiences,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Putnam County School District will receive $91,210 and the St. Lucie district $9,700 to expand existing school gardens programs. Miami-Dade’s district will get $36,746 to start a student-led agribusiness program at the William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, and the Tampa YMCA will receive $78,439 to expand three after-school programs and to help Sulphur Springs K-8 Community School start a garden so it can distribute food to the community. Florida Phoenix.

Around the nation: Coronavirus vaccinations for children under the age of 12 could be available by the end of the year or early in 2022, a Food and Drug Administration official said Thursday. NBC News.

Opinions on schools: If the shift in favor of school choice for rural Republicans is permanent, it should make school choice legislation easier to enact going forward. Michael J. Petrilli, The 74. The denial of our charter school renewals is simply an attempt by the Hillsborough County School Board to eliminate competition. The bottom line is that they are trying to take away the best educational choice available from high minority, economically disadvantaged students which is clearly their goal. Parents know what is best for their children, not politicians. Amy Sams and Cuwana Lawson, Tampa Bay Times. Supporting the Seminole County School Board and Superintendent Serita Beamon will move the district forward. How adults work together will send a clear message to our students. Anna Marie-Cote, Orlando Sentinel. We can find a better way to learn about history and racism through focusing on people’s common humanity instead of using critical race theory. Tommy Zhang, Florida Times-Union.