St. Johns student dies from COVID complications, mask policies, hiring bonuses, budgets and more

Around the state: A 17-year-old junior at a St. Johns County high school has died of complications from the coronavirus, Monroe County School Board members meet today to consider imposing a face mask mandate with an opt-out only for medical reasons, bonuses of $3,500 are being offered to people hired at a job fair by the Orange County School District’s food and nutrition services department, the 6th-grade class at a Lake County charter school returns today after being quarantined, Citrus County School Board members will vote today on a proposed $283.6 million budget, and Florida’s public universities are citing state rules for shying away from imposing strict coronavirus protocols, including face mask mandates. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: Bonuses of $3,500 are being offered during a three-day job fair this week as an incentive to fill 150 open jobs in the district’s food and nutrition services department. The fair is Wednesday through Friday. WKMG.
Duval: The district’s new policy requiring students to wear face masks unless they have an exemption signed by a health care provider begins today and will be in effect for 90 days. Masks will be required in schools, on buses and at indoor sporting and performing arts events. WTLV. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJCT.
Lake: The 6th-grade class at the Round Lake Charter School will return to campus Tuesday after two weeks in quarantine. About 90 percent of the 88 6th-graders had been placed under quarantine when the school decided to switch the entire class to remote learning. WKMG.
St. Johns: Giona Stiles, a 17-year-old junior at Pedro Menendez High School, died last week from complications of the coronavirus, according to several people familiar with his circumstances. He was diagnosed the week after schools opened Aug. 16, and died the week after that. An e-mail from the principal to parents said he was a “talented actor” with a “wonderful sense of humor.” WTLV. WJXT.
Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa: Escambia school officials have reported 646 confirmed and unconfirmed coronavirus cases among students since schools opened Aug. 11, with 1,672 students in quarantine. Santa Rosa school officials said 604 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, and 550 students have been in quarantine since school began Aug. 10. In Okaloosa schools, 1,086 cases have been reported among students since Aug. 10, with 78 cases among employees.  WEAR. WKRG. The West Florida Baptist Academy in Milton is planning a $1.5 million expansion to accommodate enrollment growth. School officials are breaking ground this week on a six-classroom addition to house elementary students. Enrollment has increased from 350 students to 530 in the past three years. Pensacola News Journal.
Bay: Three seniors at Rutherford High School spent most of the summer painting one of the school’s bathrooms with colorful murals. Less than a month into the school year, the paintings have been destroyed by vandals. “We thought that by beautifying the bathrooms, people would have appreciated it more and get less vandalism,” said one of the painters, Jena Tabbaa. “All of the bathrooms were already vandalized, so our intention was to make it nicer and there wouldn’t be vandalism.” Principal Coy Wilson is offering a reward for information leading to the vandals, and donations are pouring in to fund it. Panama City News Herald. Fifteen Bay County schools have been chosen to receive grants for robotics programs from Naval Service Warfare Center Panama City division and the Department of Defense STEM. All the schools chosen participate in the Lego League robotics program. WMBB.
Citrus: School board members meet today to vote on a proposed $283.6 million budget, which is 10.7 percent higher than last year’s. The district expects to receive $92.7 million from local taxes, $72.2 million from the state and $30.7 million from the federal government. About $13.3 million will be transferred in, and the district has $74.7 million in funds, reserves and net assets. Citrus County Chronicle.
Monroe: School board members meet today to consider a face mask mandate for students, with opt-outs allowed only for medical reasons. The proposal, which was made by board member Sue Woltanski, would last for 30 days. Any student who had a mask exemption for medical reasons during the 2020-2021 school year would automatically receive another. The current policy is for students to wear masks, but parents may opt-out for their children, and about 1,200 of the district’s 8,000 students have done so. As of Friday, 167 students have tested positive for the coronavirus since schools opened Aug. 12. During the last school year, 286 students had the virus. Key West Citizen.
Colleges and universities: Florida’s public universities have shied away from imposing strict coronavirus protocols, including face mask mandates. Officials have said they can’t act because of a state mandate, but they have declined to detail what rules or laws prevent them from challenging the state as many K-12 school districts have. Tampa Bay Times. Three recent graduates of the University of South Florida won $20,000 in a national competition with their invention that allows multiple patients to be treated with a single ventilator. The invention was the senior project for the medical engineering team of Carolyna Yamamoto Alves Pinto, Abby Blocker and Jacob Yarinsky. WFTS. Hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities are threatening to punish students who are still unvaccinated. “The Delta variant has been a game changer, and we need to respond accordingly,” said Anita Barkin, co-chair of the American College Health Association’s COVID-19 task force. Politico.
COVID time off: Time spent in quarantine can mean a loss of learning for students, but also a loss of income for teachers. Most districts will pay for up to 10 days off for teachers who miss time for COVID-related reasons. But multiple quarantines can use up that time, forcing teachers to use their paid time off. And when that runs out, so do the paychecks. WINK.

Shortage of subs, bus drivers: Shortages of substitute teachers and school bus drivers are being reported in Florida and across the nation. “We have a shortage everywhere in the Duval County school system like they do all over the state, and we have a shortage of teachers, paraprofessionals bookkeepers, custodial workers, bus drivers,” said Terrie Brady, president of the Duval teachers union. WJXT. WINK. WFTV. NPR.

Around the nation: Even as the data on COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12 is being collected, the FDA is under increasing pressure from politicians, parents and some health groups to authorize use of the vaccines. “Getting our children vaccinated is critical to giving parents greater peace of mind, but we are being told approval is still months away,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, recently said in urging quick authorization for children 5 to 11. Politico.

Opinions on schools: The studio physics class I have this semester at Florida State University is the most intensely engaged class I’ve had in my 12 years teaching in this format. While I’ve been surprised by this, I shouldn’t have been. The vast majority of students were eager to get back into a face-to-face classroom. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.