Civics curriculum, mentorship programs, student learning losses and more

Around the state: Changes in district quarantine policies in Polk, students awarded for being courageous in Sarasota, new civics curriculum for Florida students and the state Legislature’s restraint ban. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Graduation dates are set for seniors from 66 public schools, who will have the chance to walk across the stage to receive their diploma. Miami Herald.

Broward: A report released last week by state auditors found multiple violations of safety protocols in Broward schools. The findings show that complying with school security standards remains a challenge for the district, four years after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. WLRN.

Polk: Schools officials here announced a change in the district’s quarantine policy, cutting in half the amount of time students and staff will have to stay at home if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test result. Lakeland Ledger.

Volusia: The Volusia County School Board has canceled the Tuesday workshop designated to discuss the extension of Superintendent Scott Fritz’s contract, per the district’s website. The extension of Fritz’s contract has been a controversial issue, where teachers, district staff and parents have spoken out against the contract extension while area groups have sent letters of support for Fritz to the board. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sarasota: Several North Port students were honored for their courage recently at an awards ceremony called Do the Right Thing. Students from Imagine School of North Port upper middle and high school campus and North Port High helped others since the school year began. Some turned in money, while others told an adult when they heard about a student struggling with mental health issues. Your Sun.

Alachua: A ninth-grade PK Yonge Developmental and Research student named Marin Best has been selected to be a “youth trekker” for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation. Best will be part of a documentary called “Home Waters” coming out later this year. Gainesville Sun.

Citrus: Citrus High School made an announcement via Facebook on Friday that current principal Laura Lindeman will be leaving for a district job on June 1. Citrus County Chronicle. 

Learning losses: Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced a batch of new funding to address student learning losses. The money comes from federal COVID-19 relief funds, and it will be used for after-school programs, reading intervention and creating regional mental health teams. One chunk of funding will support reading intervention and professional development for reading coaches, since DeSantis says it’s crucial to have children reading at grade level by the time they reach 3rd grade. WUSF. Florida Politics.

Civics curriculum: A new civics curriculum is available for Florida fourth graders, and all Florida residents will be able to access it online for free. The state Department of Education approved a curriculum created by the state House. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said the curriculum can assist in improving Florida’s third place ranking in K-12 achievement. Citrus County Chronicle.

Pandemic update: The disruption and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic on students has been unlike anything they have ever experienced, with one counselor saying the impact on their mental health remains significant. Kids were already facing a mental health crisis before COVID-19, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, but the pandemic has only made it worse. WFSU.

Understaffing woes: The return to classrooms for schoolchildren nationwide doesn’t equate to a return to work for many of their parents are finding needed after-school programs in short supply. Hiring and retaining staff are the biggest reasons school-based providers have not fully rebounded from pandemic shutdowns. Miami Herald. Meanwhile, students are stepping up to become employees at schools due to staff shortages. NPR.

Restraint ban: The state Legislature has banned teachers and other school staff from using zip-ties and handcuffs on students. The House and Senate approved legislation to prohibit those methods, which often target children with disabilities. HB 235 provides that only school resource officers, school safety officers, school guardians or school security guards can use mechanical restraints on students in grades 6 through 12. The next step? Approval of the bill by Gov. DeSantis.  Florida Phoenix.

Legislative confusion: Two pieces of major legislation pushed by Gov. DeSantis and approved by the state Legislature have created confusion, critics say, over what public school teachers can teach in class. Orlando Sentinel.

Bill support: U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke with LBGTQ students to say the federal government supports them even if their governor does not in regards to the controversial parental rights in education bill. Fox 13.

Spelling bee champs: Twenty-four spellers in south Florida competed to become the champ and represent their county in the national bee, which will take place the week of Memorial Day in Maryland. The finals will be broadcast live on June 2. Miami Herald.

University and college news: University of South Florida is working to close learning gaps for male students through a mentorship program. USF officials hope such mentorship relationships will move students one step closer to addressing a longstanding issue: The growing gap in college completion rates between male and female students. Across the country, men are falling behind women not only in college enrollment, but in college graduation rates, with the gap widening in recent decades. Tampa Bay Times. The University of Florida launched the Artificial Intelligence Academic Initiative Center in March. The initiative, known as AI Squared, is designed to promote the use of AI and data science research. WUFT. University of Florida officials have selected a presidential search firm used by University of South Florida and Florida State University. The UF Board of Trustees voted during a meeting on Friday to select SP&A Executive Search from among four search firms interviewed. Tampa Bay Times. As educational institutions return to a level of normalcy, Florida Gulf Coast University students are calling for the school to honor graduating seniors with a commencement ceremony as in years prior. Instead, university leaders announced they are keeping their Grad Walk to honor graduates, with the concern being space and not COVID-19. Ft. Myers News-Press. The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering partnered with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics to host a regional competition in Tallahassee. The event featured robots built by high school students from across the Southeast, in addition to a team from Hawaii. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: The education budget passed by the state Legislature this year is the largest in the history of Florida. Step up for Students President Doug Tuthill and Legislative Affairs Manager Alexis Laroe discussed changes coming to educational choice programs in the Sunshine State. reimaginED. When Gov. DeSantis announced legislation to end the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), he said the proposal would reduce school testing by 75%. But it’s unclear whether a bill he signed on Tuesday will achieve that reduction. Miami Herald. The 2022 Legislative session was about waging cultural wars in the name of “transparency” and parental involvement in public education. South Florida Sun-Sentinel.