State still hasn’t submitted plan for federal funds, learning options, enrollment, dress code and more

Still no state plan: The Florida Department of Education is now a month past the deadline for submitting a plan explaining how it would use billions of dollars in federal aid to help schools rebound from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The plans were due June 7 to the U.S. Department of Education, and Florida is in line to receive $2.3 billion once its plan is approved. Plans for 40 states have already been approved. Florida DOE officials gave no explanation for the delay, simply saying that the department was working to finalize the proposal. Andrew Spar, president of the statewide teachers union the Florida Education Association, said, “I certainly hope that the DOE intends to put in their applications to get these funds for Florida. It really would help support the work that’s going on in our schools and moving our schools forward — and it would be an injustice if Florida passed on the billions of dollars in funding for our schools. There’s a host of ways that these dollars can be appropriately utilized in districts, but they do us no good if they’re not there.” Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: Polk County’s schools will limit learning options in the fall to in-person or the independent virtual school, enrollment is up in St. Lucie and Indian River school districts but down in Martin’s, St. Johns County parents are being asked for their opinions about the school district’s dress code, the number of Monroe County 3rd-graders reading at grade level declined sharply in 2020, and a Louisiana 14-year-old becomes the first African-American champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee held Thursday in Orlando. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A former teacher has been permanently banned by the state’s Education Practices Commission from renewing or reapplying for an educator’s license. Daniel Buck, 38, is a former technology teacher at Western High School in Davie. He resigned in 2018 while under investigation by the school district and police for allegedly engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior with at least two students. Buck was also accused of sexual abuse of a student, but authorities said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue those charges. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: The proposed list of top school board priorities for the next legislative session includes equitable funding, charter school accountability,  safeguards for local control of schools, extending the eligibility for children with developmental delays from age 5 to 9, and increasing funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten. School board members will finalize the list this summer. The Observer News.

Palm Beach: School board members are considering adopting policies to encourage students in middle and high schools to get help if they’ve been a victim of teen dating violence. Under the policy updates that the board will consider July 28, those students will be able to take time out of class to see a counselor, switch classes or move their lockers to a different spot so they can stay away from the alleged abusers. Dating violence is defined in the policy as “a pattern of emotional, verbal, sexual, or physical abuse used by one person in a current or past dating relationship to exert power and control over another when one or both of the partners is a teenager.” WPEC.

Polk: Only two learning options will be offered to district students when schools resume next month: in-person or online with the Polk Virtual School, which is an independent, flexible learning program. Being eliminated are the district’s custom hybrid and e-learning programs. “The goal has been to get students back into the classroom because there really is no substitute for face-to-face instruction,” said Superintendent Frederick Heid. “Many students struggled to adapt to an online setting and didn’t have access to the full range of supports and resources available at school.” Lakeland Ledger. Patch.

Osceola: School Superintendent Debra Pace is one of 30 U.S. school superintendents selected to sit on the American Rescue Plan Committee. The committee will advise U.S. government officials and lawmakers on post-coronavirus education issues. WKMG. Positively Osceola.

St. Johns: Parents have been mailed a survey asking for their views on the school district’s dress code, which has caused controversy over implementation and is the subject of a federal complaint. They have until July 16 to complete the survey, which states that “the St. Johns County School District will implement a dress code that supports a safe and positive school climate. The dress code should be fair, equitable, and consistent for all students,” while following state law forbidding students to wear clothes that expose their bodies in an “indecent or vulgar” way. WJXT.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: More students are returning to St. Lucie and Indian River district schools, according to the latest enrollment figures. St. Lucie expects about 1,150 more students in the fall than it had last year, and Indian River officials said they anticipate adding 270. “It’s not surprising to see enrollment return to pre-pandemic numbers,” said Richard Myhre, Indian River’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Martin County, on the other hand, is projecting a further decline of about 3 percent, or 460 students. TCPalm.

Bay: Two 7th-graders at Holy Nativity Episcopal School in Panama City have been chosen as top innovators in the National Innovator Challenge. Paizley Torres developed a nylon lifejacket with foam pockets only in the front. Natalie Latham created a mat for pet cages that, when scratched, files the nails of animals. Both inventors will now compete in the global innovation challenge in September. WMBB.

Monroe: State testing results show that the number of school district 3rd-graders reading at grade level dropped 11.4 percent from 2019. Dave Murphy, district director of assessment and accountability, said some drop was expected because of the pandemic. Reading proficiency dropped 3 percentage points for white students, 6.7 points for Hispanics and 12 points for black students. Key West Citizen. School board member Sue Woltanski has been elected as secretary/treasurer for the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards. Key West Citizen.

Gulf: Sissy Godwin, who has been the assistant principal at Port St. Joe High School since 2018, has been promoted to the top job. She replaces Josh Dailey, who has been transferred to the district office as assistant superintendent of business and human resources. Port St. Joe Star.

Spelling Bee champion: Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old from Harvey, La., won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night. She’s the first African-American champion. The winning word in the 18th round was “murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. Second place went to 12-year-old Chaitra Thummala from Frisco, Texas, who was tripped up by the “neroli oil.” The best showing by a Florida student was Clay County’s Erik Williams, who was eliminated in the ninth round and finished tied for 12th. Associated Press. NPR. CNN. Scripps National Spelling Bee. Clay Today.

Around the nation: Pfizer is asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a coronavirus vaccine booster shot that would be given to people six to eight months after they got their first two doses. The company said the booster would provide greater protection against coronavirus variants that are becoming more common. Associated Press. Bloomberg News. Louisiana legislators recently approved a statewide reading scholarship program that was modeled after the one that’s been in place since 2018 in Florida. redefinED. Even as U.S. K-12 schools began to fully reopen this year, more than half of students continued to attend through hybrid or online-only programs, according to data from the Institute of Education Sciences. The study also showed that white students attended in-person at far higher rates than their black, Hispanic and Asian classmates. The 74. A new study of more than 6,500 Canadian students in grades 4-12 concludes that incidences of bullying declined during the pandemic.

Opinions on schools: A majority of the Hillsborough County School Board apparently would prefer to force families to send their kids to a failing school than to trust them to pick the school that will serve their kids best. State Rep. Chris Latvala, Tampa Bay Times. Self-determination means that black parents must choose to do what’s best for our children and families while also advocating for long-term justice and equity for everyone. Our pursuit of civil rights in education didn’t end with the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and our children cannot wait for the goodwill and desire of the system to make sure they learn and thrive. Christina Laster, Project Forever Free. The laws governing children’s health care are complex; physicians or concerned health-care providers can seek legal advice for uncertainties about specific questions. New laws such as the Parental Bill of Rights provides opportunity for meaningful discussion about how health-care providers and parents can each exercise their critical role to promote children’s well-being. Katherine Drabiak, Orlando Sentinel. Right-wing identity politics is threatening Holocaust education by insisting that it not be used to teach broader lessons about “racism and inequality.” Landon Frim, Fort Myers News-Press. During the pandemic year, the results of the state’s teacher certification exams gave mixed signals about the future of the profession in Florida. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.