Districts get flexibility on head counts, new state tests taking more time, school rezonings and more

Flexibility on head counts: Florida school districts that closed for at least one day because of Hurricane Ian are being given flexibility on reporting enrollment to the Department of Education. Districts were scheduled to report counts between Sept. 30 and Oct. 14, so the state can determine funding. But the hurricane made landfall near Fort Myers on Sept. 28 and caused schools to close and residents to evacuate. DOE is allowing those district to use the enrollment from the 11 days before the storm hit as a way to avoid determining school funding during a “temporary disruption” in attendance. News Service of Florida. Education experts say the storm’s disruption of school could have a lasting impact on students, especially ones from low-income families. “In a week or two, we’ll have forgotten about Hurricane Ian. But these districts and schools and students will be struggling months and years later,” said Cassandra R. Davis, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina. Associated Press.

New testing time: The state’s new assessment program for K-12 students, called the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking or FAST, was touted by Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislators as cutting student testing time by 75 percent and providing progress reports more quickly. But an assessment by Taylor Gilfillan, the data analytics, accountability and evaluation director for the Alachua County School District, contends that in some cases, testing time is nearly doubled. For example, she said, 3rd-graders had two 80-minute sessions to take the math test and two more 80-minute sessions for the reading test under the previous program, the Florida Standards Assessments. With one FAST assessment, 3rd-graders have up to 80 minutes for math and 90 minutes for reading, and it’s given three times a year. “From a pitch of saying we’re going to have less testing, we’ve now gone from 320 minutes to nearly 600 minutes of testing,” Gilfillan said. Testing time for students in grades 3-5 is increased by 75 percent, while middle-schoolers’ testing time is 77 percent higher, and high school students will spend 28 percent more time testing, she said. WUFT.

Around the state: Proposed school rezonings in Broward and Hillsborough counties draw protests from parents, Lee County’s school superintendent says an announcement will be made Friday about reopening schools damaged by Hurricane Ian, Flagler students won’t have to make up the three days they were off for the storm, Alachua’s school board hires a new chief of safety and school security, and Tallahassee Community College starts an esports program. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The father of a 10-year-old Eugenia B. Thomas K-8 Center student who was arrested earlier this week for bringing a gun to school has also been charged. Police said Arce Alan Ashbil, 27, had no proof of ownership of the gun, and kept it at home in a bookbag. He’s been charged with violating the state’s safe storage of firearms statute. WPLG.

Broward: Several hundred angry parents voiced their objections to a proposed rezoning of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School boundaries at a recent meeting with school officials. Stoneman Douglas is expected to be at 116 percent of capacity this year, while Coral Springs, J.P. Taravella, Atlantic Tech and Coconut Creek high schools all have empty seats. Parents are unhappy that the rezoning could send their children to lower-rated schools. Parkland Talk. Kevin Finan, a machining teacher at Atlantic Technical College and High School in Coconut Creek, is one of 20 U.S. educators to receive a $50,000 prize from the 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. Prizes are awarded to teachers who “increase understanding, support and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools.” WPLG. WSVN.

Hillsborough: The school district is approaching decision time on the always-sensitive topic of rezoning school boundaries. District officials say it’s necessary to balance enrollment between schools half full and those over capacity. But many parents are resisting because they like the school their children are in and in some cases, aren’t thrilled with the schools they might be transferred to. “What we’ve learned is our community really understands that boundaries have to be made,” Superintendent Addison Davis recently told the school board. “But they don’t want their individual boundaries to be touched. And I get that.” Nonetheless, Davis expects recommendations from consultants by the end of the year, and new school assignments could be in place by August 2023. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: Students from Riverdale Elementary School resume classes today in temporary classrooms seven miles away at East River High School. Riverdale suffered significant flood damage during Hurricane Ian and is still unsafe to use, district officials said. A contractor is working to clean and sanitize Riverdale, but no timetable has been set on when those students might return. WKMG. WFTV.

Duval: Three students were hospitalized Wednesday morning after their school bus ran into the back of a truck that was stopped on I-95. Florida Highway Patrol troopers described the injuries as minor. The bus was taking 35 students to the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville when the accident happened. The school bus driver was cited for careless driving. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV.

Lee: Superintendent Christopher Bernier said an announcement will be made Friday about school reopenings. “I will be making sure an announcement is made regarding the school district’s operations on Friday, so you’ll know this weekend how to prepare for next week,” Bernier said in a video message posted on the district’s social media. The report from a professional assessment of damages is expected to be in sometime today. “I suspect that we will have some good information, along with some information that gives us greater concern,” Bernier said. “I don’t want to pretend that I have all the answers at this point because I don’t.” Fort Myers News-Press. Lee County School District. The district is partnering with the Pinellas County School District to offer students, staff, families and the community free “grab-and-go” lunches today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at James Stephens Elementary School in Fort Myers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Osceola: District officials are partnering with the Education Foundation Osceola County to raise money to buy books, backpacks, school uniforms and additional supplies for students who were affected by Hurricane Ian. WESH.

Sarasota: District officials are aiming to reopen schools in the north part of the county on Monday, but said they need 80 more school bus drivers to make that happen. Schools in the south part of the county, which were more affected by the storm, are expected to open sometime the following week. WWSB.

Alachua: School board members unanimously approved the hiring of Douglas Pelton as the district’s new chief of safety and school security. He had been employed in the Orange County School District’s police department in its weapon screening program. Mainstreet Daily News. Charges have been dropped against a 17-year-old student at Eastside High School in Gainesville who was recently accused of threatening to bomb the school. Prosecutors said an investigation produced no evidence to support the charge. WCJB.

Flagler: Schools lost three days of classes because of Hurricane Ian, but students won’t have to make up any days because the district had already built extra instructional time into its daily schedule. Officials also made revisions in the academic calendar concerning when class segments end and report cards are issued. “We wanted to provide some options that would have little to no impact on our faculty, staff or student schedules,” said assistant superintendent Lashakia Moore. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Tallahassee Community College is starting an esports team. TCC joins Florida Gateway College in Lake City as the only Florida schools with NJCAA esports teams. Around the country, there are 205 community colleges with esports programs that compete in the national association. “NJCAA recognizes esports as a national championship, so this is a great avenue,” said TCC athletics director Chuck Moore. “The members may not be competing on the basketball court, but they’re competing in something they love, and that’s what this school’s about — fostering people’s abilities and talents.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Education podcasts: Jessica Strong, a 6th-grade English language arts teacher at Florida Virtual School who recently received the Ron Nieto Digital Educator of the Year Award for 2022, talks about her background, what drew her to digital education, the difference between best approaches to in-person and virtual instruction, and more. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: We should not be shocked that a recent poll shows school choice increasing in popularity as more and more people have more and more choices in their daily life. It was bound to bleed into schooling preferences. Mike McShane, Forbes.