D.A.R.E. program returns, portable classrooms, food programs, teacher vacancies and more

Across the state: Pay increases coming to Lake teachers, the D.A.R.E. program is headed to Jackson, a STEM building is headed to Gulf Coast State College and there are thousands of teacher vacancies statewide. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School officials here donated boxes of LBGTQ-friendly children’s books to a museum this summer, weeks before Florida’s HB 1557 law went into effect. The school district says the books were donated to clear office space as part of a district reorganization, but the Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Ft. Lauderdale, which received the donations, questioned the timing since the law went into effect on July 1. Orlando Sentinel.

Lake: Teachers here are set to have a major pay increase. The Lake County Education Association and Lake County schools made an agreement to hike starting pay for teachers to $48,500 and provide raises up to $4,625, according to Lake County Schools. Teachers who receive “Highly Effective” ratings would receive the $4,625 increase under an updated performance package. WESH.

Hernando: Demolition began on July 6 after a decision was reached to remove a portion of the Hernando Historic School, an extension built decades ago that used to host the Family Resource Center. The teardown is expected to be done on July 19. Years of maintenance costs led county officials to re-evaluate the value of the building. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Fourteen years ago, 20 portable classrooms were removed from the Buddy Taylor middle school campus as the district made a push to house as many students in its buildings as possible. The construction of the classroom building and cafeteria between Buddy Taylor and Wadsworth Elementary made the removal possible. This week, Buddy Taylor took delivery of seven portables, which were grounded in some of the same areas as they were in the last decade. The portables are being leased for three years at $105,000, which includes delivery and pickup. Flagler Live.

Jackson: The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is implementing D.A.R.E., or the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, at local schools. Several JCSO deputies were sent to a D.A.R.E. training this summer to prepare for the program. Officials say they returned with certification and are prepared to implement the program at schools. To start, they will go to Marianna K-8 and expand the program to other schools throughout the county. WJHG.

Food program: Local Boys & Girls Clubs are looking to continue and expand their summer meal programs for children who are in need after receiving $10,000 from a nonprofit called No Kid Hungry. For low-income homes that rely on school programs to feed their children, the Boys & Girls Club provides breakfast and lunch through a partnership with the Citrus County School District, which delivers food to the clubs. The $10,000 will cover the project’s traditional expenses and allow local clubs to provide additional snacks to children. Citrus County Chronicle.

University and college news: A federal judge on Friday ruled a University of Central Florida professor, two teachers and a student can move forward with a challenge to a new state law that restricts the way race-related concepts can be taught in classrooms and workplace training. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker rejected portions of a request by the state to dismiss a constitutional challenge to the law.  Orlando Sentinel. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Florida Politics. A new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) building is headed to Gulf Coast State College, replacing the Sherman Science lecture hall. Officials at GCSC began demolition this week to make way for the college’s state-of-the-art STEM building, which will be finished by spring 2024. The STEM building’s labs and classrooms will feature the latest technology, officials said. The project is expected to cost about $24 million. Panama City News Herald.

Bill backlash: Author Stephen King went on social media to warn his followers that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill “requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with (the) state.” The tweet referenced HB 233, which requires public colleges and universities in the state to “conduct an annual assessment of the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity,” by using a survey developed by the State Board of Education or Board of Governors. But the 2022 survey is not a required registration of political views as King alleged. Tampa Bay Times.

Dropout rates: In 2020, 2 million American students between 16 and 24 years old dropped out of school, federal data shows. The dropout rate had actually declined from 10 years before, meaning a lower percentage of students were considered dropouts than in 2010. For 2020, the status dropout rate was 5.3, meaning 5.3 percent of people in that age bracket were not attending school and lacked a high school equivalent credential like a GED. The report is based on data from the Current Population Survey within the U.S. Census Bureau. Florida Phoenix.

Teacher vacancies: With the new school year a month away, there are still thousands of vacant jobs in public schools across the state. More than 400,000 students may start their new school year without a full-time certified teacher at the front of the classroom. WUSF.

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BY Camille Knox