Corcoran reissues threat, masks optional in Miami-Dade, UF being investigated, and more

Court bolsters Corcoran: A scathing court of appeals opinion of school districts’ “open” defiance of the state’s face mask rules prompted Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to ramp up the pressure on those districts. Monday, Corcoran tweeted, “I’m officially putting the districts on notice: immediately come into compliance or face the consequences.” He also sent a letter to the eight districts targeted in the case, pointing to the opinion and urging the districts to “give parents a choice.” The opinion issued Friday by the 1st District Court of Appeals came in a case in which some parents are asking the courts to force school districts to comply with the state’s rules. The three-judge appellate court panel did not issue a ruling, but did offer its opinion that school boards “are not free to ignore the law” while decisions on face masks are pending in other courts. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Middle and high school student in Miami-Dade County can now opt-out of the district’s face mask mandate, the organization that grants accreditation to the University of Florida said Monday it will investigate the university over its decision to prohibit three professors from testifying in a legal case against the state, Broward is hiring a company to conduct a national search for a new superintendent, Pasco County School Board members are expected to vote today whether to revise school start and end times because of bus driver shortages, Palm Beach board members will debate the merits of starting school next year on Aug. 10 or 15, and Manatee voters will decide today whether to renew a 1-mill extra property tax to help schools. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Parents of middle school and high school students can now choose to opt their children out of wearing a mask, district officials announced Monday. Elementary students and students in K-8 schools must still wear masks in schools. “We have improved significantly. We have listened to our health experts. That is why we are relaxing these protocols,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. Students in district schools had been wearing masks since October 2020. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: School officials announced Monday that they have hired a company to conduct a national search for a new superintendent. That company will create a website to inform the public about the search. A survey of the community will also be conducted by the district to get recommendations on the kinds of qualities wanted in a new district leader. The district survey closes Nov. 15. Vickie Cartwright has been the interim superintendent since July, and has said she will apply for the job. Former superintendent Robert Runcie resigned in April after being indicted for perjury. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WTVJ. Broward and other south Florida school districts are struggling to hire teachers as well as substitutes to fill in for them. There are 348 teaching vacancies in Broward, compared to 221 at this time in 2020, and there are only enough subs to fill in 69 percent of those openings. Over the past two years, subs were able to fill about 87 percent of vacancies. Sun Sentinel. A 9th-grader faces disciplinary action after allegedly putting a teacher in a headlock Monday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. WPLG. WSVN.

Palm Beach: At Wednesday’s meeting, school board members will discuss the merits of starting the 2022-2023 school year Aug. 10 or 15. Historically, the board has chosen the earlier date so the first semester will end before the winter holidays. A complicating factor is the uncertainty over standardized testing. The state has announced an end to the annual spring tests in favor of periodic assessments. But no details have been announced about the form of the replacements or the timing. Palm Beach Post.

Pasco: School board members are expected to vote today to adjust start and finish times as a workaround to a shortage of school bus drivers. Some students will see only slight adjustments, but most will see changes of about 30 minutes and some will have their schools days adjusted by an hour or more. Whatever changes are made are bound to anger some parents. “This is not an easy decision,” said board member Megan Harding. “I don’t think there’s going to be a popular decision.” Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Former school board member Tina Descovich, who cofounded the parents’ rights organization Mom for Liberty in January, talks about the group, why it was started, its explosive growth and her experiences as a school board member. The 74.

Manatee: Voters go to the polls today to decide whether to renew the extra 1-mill property tax rate for the school district. It raises about $46 million a year, and since it was first approved in 2018 it has been used to increase pay for teachers and support staff, extend the school day by 30 minutes, and expand educational programs. Bradenton Herald. Florida Politics.

Lake: A 15-year-old student has been arrested after allegedly making a bomb threat against South Lake High School in Groveland. The boy has been charged with threatening to kill, do bodily harm, conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism; disturbing schools and other assemblies. WKMG.

Sarasota: Supply chain problems have forced some school district workers to make runs to Costco to pick up supplies for school cafeterias. “I don’t know what the solution is,” said Sara Dan, the director of the district’s food operations. “Will winter break allow the industry to catch up? We may be encountering these types of challenges this school year and into next school year. We don’t know.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Citrus: A paraprofessional at the Citrus County Renaissance Center in Lecanto has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. Kristin Jarvis, 36, was charged with sexual battery by an authority figure, sexual battery by someone in custodial authority, human trafficking, traveling to meet a minor, child neglect and contributing to a minor’s delinquency. The center is a school for students in grades 5-12 who have been expelled from their district school. Citrus County Chronicle.

DeSoto: A 13-year-old student has been arrested and charged with felony intimidation by sending a written threat to conduct a mass shooting. Deputies said the student altered a threatening image to direct the threat to DeSoto schools, and reposted it on social media. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: The organization that grants accreditation to the University of Florida said Monday it will investigate the university over its decision to prohibit three professors from testifying in a legal case against the state because it could have posed a “conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida and create a conflict for the University of Florida.” Belle S. Wheelan, the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, said that decision could be a violation of “undue political influence” and “academic freedom” accrediting standards. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Gainesville Sun. The Baptist College of Florida, a Christian college in Graceville, plans to change its name to Florida Baptist University and add campuses in Lakeland and Hialeah. Dothan Eagle.

Tax credit scholarships: More than $662 million worth of tax credit scholarships were handed out to 106,112 low- and middle-income students during the 2020-2021 school year, according to a report issued by the Florida Department of Education. Step Up For Students, which helps administers the state’s scholarship programs and hosts this blog, handled 98.1 percent of the scholarships. reimaginED.

Education podcast: Shannon Bloodworth, a mother of two dyslexic children in Alachua County, describes the problems she had with district schools creating individualized education plans, and how receiving Family Empowerment Scholarships for students with unique abilities has helped her family. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: An increasing number of American families have adopted the attitude that the nation’s public-school system is a sunk cost and have made alternative plans to ensure the future of their children. Home-schooling is at an all-time high, micro-school pods have exploded, and lawmakers are busily and wisely expanding parental choice programs. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Barring three professors from testifying in a lawsuit against the state in a voting rights case is exactly the wrong thing for the University of Florida to do. Tampa Bay Times. The University of Florida’s choice is academic freedom or being a stooge for the state. Orlando Sentinel. A study says that public school students perform better when there is competition for their schools from private schools and state-funded scholarships. But that conclusion seems to depend on the definition of “performance.” Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.