State’s ‘COVID slide,’ mask injunction requested, Fried’s data questioned, superintendents and more

Around the state: The state’s application for federal coronavirus relief aid details the “COVID slide” among Florida students, parents of children with disabilities have asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an injunction against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order on face masks until an appeal of a lower-court ruling can be heard, the accuracy of coronavirus data posted Thursday by Democratic agriculture commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried is being questioned by epidemiologists and state health officials, Leon’s superintendent said the district will keep its face mask mandate despite the possibility that it will lose some funding from the state, Broward’s school board is expected to offer Vickie Cartwright the permanent superintendent’s job, and an unopposed candidate for a Manatee County School Board seat spent time in jail five years ago for hacking into the Lee County Supervisor of Elections and the state Division of Elections websites. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A teacher at a Doral K-8 school has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old former student. Heiry Calvi, 41, has been charged with lewd and lascivious battery, electronic transmission harmful to minors, unlawful use of a communications device, child neglect, offenses against students by authority figures, contributing to delinquency and possession of a firearm on school property. After her arrest, Calvi told a detective she was pregnant, but would not say how far along she is or name the father. Calvi is a teacher at the John I. Smith K-8 Center, and the boy was a student there. He’s now at J.C. Bermudez High, which shares the campus with the Smith Center. Miami Herald. WFOR. WTVJ. WPLG. WSVN.

Broward: School board members could vote as early as Tuesday to appoint Vickie Cartwright as the district’s permanent superintendent. She’s been acting in an interim basis since August. When Cartwright took the interim job, her employment agreement prohibited her from applying for the permanent position. But according to an executive summary accompanying the proposal to give her the job, “there is nothing included within the agreement that would preclude her from being appointed as the permanent superintendent.” Cartwright said she will accept the position if it’s offered. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. Only 16 percent of the county’s teachers and other workers have downloaded a new phone app designed to give them the ability to report emergencies directly to law enforcement. The Alyssa’s Alert app, known as SaferWatch, has been available for two months. School officials said employees are reluctant to download it because of an inaccurate assumption that the app might be used to track employees. “We’re in the process of making sure the misinformation is corrected and people have a deeper understanding of what this app does,” said Cartwright. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: The Hillsborough school district is starting an online tutoring program for elementary school students who are quarantined at home. Seven teachers will take part in the Virtual Quarantine Support program, which will be available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. “This is one-on-one tutoring support where we can really focus exactly on what those students need,” said one of the teachers, Jenine Cowan. Bay News 9. The number of coronavirus cases reported in the Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school districts last week dropped by 43 percent from the previous week, to a total of 506. Hillsborough reported 215, Pinellas 143, Pasco 110 and Hernando 38. Tampa Bay Times.

Duval: After a second public school promoted the national “Bring your Bible to School Day” last week, district officials said they are preparing “guidance for our school principals on how to appropriately handle posts from student clubs to avoid confusion in the future.” The ACLU of Florida said both schools’ social media posts touting the event raised “constitutional concerns” because they didn’t specify that the events were student-led. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: School officials have released a list of projects that they plan to do using the $202 million the district expects to receive in federal coronavirus relief aid. About $65 million will be used for cleaning, sanitation, air quality and ventilation systems, $33 million will go for instructional materials, $31 million is headed to charter schools, $16.5 million will be used for summer school, tutoring and learning support, $14.4 million will cover indirect administrative costs, $5.4 million will be used for staff support, and $3.8 million is going to physical and mental health support. Lakeland Ledger. The Polk County School District has named Amy Heiser-Meyers of Horizons Elementary School as the principal of the year, and Tammy Ruhl of Floral Avenue Elementary as the assistant principal of the year. Polk County School District.

Lee: Sheriff’s deputies arrested two 17-year-old students Friday and accused them of having a loaded handgun at East Lee County High School. Deputies were tipped that one of the students had a gun in her backpack, which had apparently been placed there by a male student who was also arrested. WINK. WFTX. Fort Myers News-Press. WBBH.

Brevard: School board members will address the district’s face mask policy at Tuesday’s school board meeting. Last week, the state Board of Education ordered sanctions against the district because it requires students to wear face masks without giving parents the choice of opting-out. WKMG.

Seminole: Tyler Lampe, an information technology teacher and assistant coach for the Oviedo High School football team, has died of cancer. He was 33. WKMG.

Manatee: David Levin, a candidate for the District 2 seat on the Manatee County School Board, was arrested in 2016 and later found guilty of hacking into the Lee County Supervisor of Elections and the state Division of Elections websites. He accepted a plea agreement and served 20 days in jail, along with two years of probation. “That was probably one of the bigger mistakes I’ve made in my life, the way I went about the whole thing,” he said. Now an unopposed Levin is running for the board seat because he’s “firmly against mask mandates, and even more firmly against critical race theory.” The school board’s mask mandate, which allows parents to opt-out, ends Oct. 29, and CRT is not taught in the district. Bradenton Herald.

St. Johns: Freedom Crossing Academy is an exception to the trend of a declining number of coronavirus cases at schools in the district. Cases have more than tripled in the past two weeks at the K-8 school. On Sept 27, the school of about 1,470 students reported four COVID-19 cases and eight quarantines. By Oct. 1, there were 13 cases and 12 quarantines. St. Augustine Record. The district isn’t alone in trying to fill 83 teaching positions and 204 non-instructional staff openings. “It’s a challenge across the state, but we are seeing it here in St. Johns like we haven’t in years before,” said Michelle Dillon, president of the teachers union. “It’s not just a concern for the union. It is a concern for our district staff as well.” WJXT. St. Augustine Record.

Leon: Superintendent Rocky Hanna said Friday that the district would stick with its face mask policy, despite a state Board of Education’s decision Thursday to financially penalize the district and seven others for requiring students to wear face masks in schools without giving parents the choice to opt-out. “Whether it’s forfeiting a salary or potentially being removed from office, a life is worth much more than both of those things,” Hanna said. WTXL. A Fairview Middle School student was arrested Thursday for allegedly bringing a stun gun to school. The student is at least the seventh to be arrested for having a weapon on a campus since the school year began Aug. 10. Tallahassee Democrat.

Indian River: School board members are considering changing the rules governing public comments at board meetings. Speakers who want to discuss an issue not on the agenda would do so for an hour before the beginning of the regular meeting, at 5 p.m., while members of the public talking about agenda items would speak at 6 when the regular business meeting begins. Both would be limited to an hour unless the board members agreed to extend the time. The rules change is intended to allow the board to focus on agenda items instead of being distracted by partisan political issues. TCPalm.

State’s COVID slide: The state’s long-delayed application for federal coronavirus aid included data measuring the so-called “COVID slide” in student achievement that districts around the nation have seen. Black students, disabled students and students from low-income families in Florida showed the greatest decline in achievement from 2019 to 2021, according to the data. Student performance also declined in math at all levels, and the achievement gap between black and white students widened. Florida Politics.

Masks and the courts: Parents of children with disabilities have asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an injunction against Gov. DeSantis’ executive order on face mask mandates until an appeal of a lower-court ruling can be heard. The parents contend the order that forbids school districts from imposing mask mandates for students violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and another law, the Rehabilitation Act, that protects the rights of the disabled. They said their children are at a “heightened risk of severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19” and can’t safely attend school without a mask mandate. News Service of Florida.

Masking data: The accuracy of coronavirus data released last week by Democratic agriculture commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried is being questioned by epidemiologists and health officials. Fried posted data that she said proves mask mandates significantly reduce the number of coronavirus cases in schools. Gov. DeSantis’ office disputed the data, calling it incomplete and misinterpreted. Hours after Fried held a press conference, the findings from the data posted on her Twitter page were revised. WTSP.

Boards under fire: Local school boards are under fire from conservatives over face masks, quarantines and critical race theory, and Republicans increasingly are pushing back against the Justice Department’s plans to look into violent threats against local school boards and officials. They claim the move by federal officials is “nothing more than a scare tactic to silence parents.” Those battles are putting a focus on school board elections this fall. WFSU. Florida PhoenixAssociated Press.

Around the nation: California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that requires all public high school students to complete a one-semester course in ethnic studies before they can graduate. It goes into effect during the 2029-2030 school year. Associated Press. Newsom also signed a bill that requires public schools and colleges to stock their restrooms with free tampons. Associated Press. At least 140,000 children have lost parents or caregivers to COVID-19, and about 65 percent of them are children of color. USA Today.

Opinions on schools: Rather than stand up for schools and students, the state Board of Education became a prop for Gov. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The seven board members are volunteers who are paid nothing. As they proved Thursday, that’s exactly what they’re worth. Sun Sentinel. If it’s safe for our kids to go to school without masks, why can’t a few bureaucrats meet in public so we can see for ourselves how petty they are? Because bullies are cowards who lurk in the shadows. Steve Bousquet, Sun Sentinel. Public education used to be seen as a revered achievement of our society, a great leveler that provided a road to success for the poorest among us. But now in Florida, it serves primarily as a useful bogeyman. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The mask mandate in the Sarasota County schools is no more. So now can we dial down the crazy behavior to the point where we can stop indulging adults who act like attention-seeking children and start once again devoting our full attention to the school kids who actually are, well, children? Roger Brown, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The best strategy to solve school hunger is to keep it low-pressure and low-profile: Focus on establishing a positive relationship with the student first; then, put them in touch with programs in your area designed to take the stigma out of food assistance. Elizabeth Santiago, Orlando Sentinel. A quiet University of Florida campus taught us that connection underlies students’ mental well-being. D’Andra Mull, Tampa Bay Times.

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