School grades released statewide, new building hurdles, free meals and more

Around the state: The Florida Department of Education released school grades statewide, Hillsborough officials face hurdles in building new schools, free meals in Charlotte and  crowdfunding for teacher wish lists in Seminole. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

School grades: The Florida Department of Education released school grades for the 2021-22 academic year.  Schools statewide exceeded expectations, with the 2021-22 grades marking the first full school grade data released since 2019.  Some highlights: Fifty-three schools exited the school improvement support list in 2022, all schools graded ‘F’ in 2019 improved their grades in 2022 and 84% of schools graded ‘D’ and ‘F’ in 2019 improved grades in 2022. Statewide, the biggest gains were seen in elementary schools, where 1 in 5 schools improved by at least one letter, according to the Department of Education. News4Jax.  Politico. Tampa Bay Times.  Meanwhile, fewer schools earned ‘A’ and ‘B’ grades than they did in 2019.  In Central Florida, for example, Seminole County Public Schools remained the top performer, earning an ‘A’ grade. Orange County Public Schools earned a ‘B,’ as did Lake and Osceola school systems. The state canceled school testing in 2020 when the pandemic closed schools, so no grades were issued that year. Last year, grades were optional because students were studying remotely, so this year marked the return of the grading system for schools and districts, based mostly on standardized test performance.  Orlando Sentinel. Despite COVID-19 challenges, Lake County received a ‘B’ grade. Some families had trouble getting children to school during quarantines, but school officials say teachers, staff and administrators attentive to the needs of students, which was reflective in grades. WESH. In Sarasota and Manatee counties, Sarasota maintained its ‘A’ grade and Manatee its ‘B’ rating. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In Collier County, the school district received an ‘A’ rating. Lee County received a ‘B,’ with 27 Lee County schools increasing their overall grade average since 2019.  Ft. Myers News-Press.  Fox4Now. Volusia and Flagler schools each earned ‘B’ grades, while St. Johns County district kept its straight ‘A’ performance. The Daytona Beach News-Journal. And of the seven largest school districts in Florida, only Palm Beach and Miami-Dade achieved ‘A’s’ while Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Orange and Pinellas earned ‘B’s.’ Palm Beach Post.

Seminole: With teachers reaching into their pockets to pay for school supplies as inflation continues to soar, a few teachers here turned to social media to receive assistance by posting their classroom wish lists. A Facebook page started more than a decade ago by a realtor named Emma Reichert has been encouraging the community to lend a hand to teachers and students in need. WKMG.

Building hurdles: Hillsborough school officials are facing hurdles in their quest to make sure every student has a seat to learn while its population continues to grow. Capacity issues plagued Hillsborough at nearly 60 schools. While the district waited for funding to build new schools, construction costs have skyrocketed, officials say. The construction of schools is up 43% in the last three months, and 90% in the last year. ABC Action News. Meanwhile, Flagler County schools, county government and Palm Coast are at odds over how to bill builders for new schools. A meeting will be held today with representatives from the school board, county, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach and Bunnell to hash things out. Flagler Live.

Free meals: Students in the Charlotte County Public Schools system can get free breakfast and lunch daily during the 2022-23 school year, according to officials. The meals are made available through the federal Community Eligibility Program that allows schools to qualify as a “community” when the percentage of directly certified students reaches a certain threshold at a particular school. Port Charlotte Sun. 

Artwork competition: A Martin County High School student’s art is up for consideration in a national artwork competition called Doodle for Google. Sophie Araque-Liu won Florida’s nomination, where students submit artwork to be featured for a day on the search engine’s homepage. This year’s theme was “I care for myself by…” Araque-Liu’s artwork depicts her hugging her mother. Voting to select national finalists began Thursday. TC Palm.

Suspension inequality: Despite a decline in suspension as students moved to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black children and those in special education were disciplined far more than white students and those in general education, a new study shows. The study also indicates that the behavior of students may have worsened this past academic year. The 74th.

Educator concerns: The president of the state’s largest teachers union says educators are concerned about state legislation and recent education training that could threaten the bond between educators and their students, in addition to the separation between church and state. WINK.

University and college news: A state appeals court this month will delve into a dispute about whether the University of Florida should refund fees to students who were forced to switch to remote learning in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began. A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments on July 20 after an Alachua County circuit judge last year refused to dismiss the potential class-action lawsuit. Two other state appellate courts have taken on similar cases from other schools. A key issue in the cases: whether schools breached contracts by not providing on-campus services in 2020 after students paid fees. WUFT. The board of trustees of the College of Central Florida on Wednesday approved renaming its Citrus County campus in honor of Sen. Wilton Simpson. The new name: CF Wilton Simpson Citrus Campus. Simpson served as a member of the Florida Senate since 2012 and is currently Senate president, representing the 10th district that includes Citrus, Hernando and part of Pasco counties. Citrus County Chronicle.

Opinions on schools: West Virginia’s State Treasurer Riley Moore, who serves as chairman of the Hope Scholarship Board, issued a statement after Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit permanently enjoined the state’s Hope Scholarship Program. In the statement, Moore says, “I am deeply disappointed that a judge has decided to halt this program which would help so many families in West Virginia. More than 3,100 West Virginia students were relying on having this funding in the fall, and now — at the last minute — they may not be able to get the educational services they want and need.” reimaginED.