Hurricane damage to Lee schools at least $150M, makeup days set, Polk building plans, and more

Around the state: Hurricane Ian caused an estimated $150 million in damage to Lee schools that doesn’t include costs for rebuilding any schools, Lee school officials also announced hurricane makeup days, ambitious plans to build new schools and renovate others was announced this week by Polk school officials, when Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright is re-evaluated in 90 days it will be by a different school board, 10 Florida universities made the list of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of schools around the world, the number of U.S. school shootings this year has set a record, and a Pinellas County school board candidate “amends” several statements found in two-year-old social media posts. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Vickie Cartwright has 90 days to convince the school board she deserves to remain in the job, but by then it will be a different board making the decision. Four of the five appointees of Gov. Ron DeSantis will be replaced Nov. 22 by the winners of district elections Nov. 8. Only board chair Torey Alston, the fifth appouintee, will remain to re-evaluate Cartwright at the end of the 90-day period she was given to address issues raised by the board. Cartwright said she was “very grateful for the very candid conversation that our school board engaged in. It was a very fruitful dialogue.” She added the board’s action “demonstrated that they have continued faith and confidence in my leadership, and I’m very grateful to the board for that.” Sun-Sentinel.

Duval: A group of political activists is submitting its own proposed maps for new school board and city council districts after a judge recently ruled that the maps drawn by the city were illegal. The ACLU, NAACP and Northside Coalition argued that the maps squeezed the black community into four districts and restricted the opportunity to have representatives in other districts around the city. WJXT.

Polk: An ambitious expansion of district facilities is scheduled in the next decade, according to list of construction and renovations announced this week by assistant superintendent for facilities Angela Usher. Planned are a new elementary school in south Lakeland to be completed by 2029, and at least four other schools and/or additions that would be finished by 2031. Also in the works are a new cafeteria at Medulla Elementary to be finished in the next year, an expansion of the employee clinic in Lakeland, new air-conditioning and windows in the Lake Gibson Senior High gymnasium, an auditorium for Rochelle School of the Arts, gyms for Lake Gibson, Lakeland Highlands, Bartow and Blake Academy middle schools, and major projects at Southwest Middle and Fred G. Garner elementary schools. Lakeland Now. A 15-year-old student at Tenoroc High School in Lakeland was arrested Wednesday and accused of having a firearm at the school and threatening a classmate. The boy has been charged with charged with possession of a firearm on school campus, carrying a concealed firearm, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, disruption of a school function, possession of a firearm by someone under 18, and possession of a firearm with an altered serial number. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT.

Pinellas: District 3 school board candidate Dawn Peters has “amended” several 2020 social media posts responses that linked to her QAnon and conspiracy theories. Peters now says she does not question that the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks took place, and denies she follows the conspiracy theories of the right-wing QAnon movement. The revisions were made apparently in response to a recent newspaper report with images showing her taking a pledge with others at a QAnon gathering and retweeting an item that called the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the moon landing and the coronavirus pandemic “hoaxes.” After the article was published, Peters confirmed the posts were real but said she couldn’t recall what she was thinking when she shared them. She also said she had “no idea” whether the three historic events were hoaxes, but that people should “think for themselves.” Her opponent is Keesha Benson. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Hurricane Ian caused at least $150 million in damage to county schools, according to an estimate presented to the school board this week. Superintendent Christopher Bernier cautioned board members that the number could increase and that it did not include the cost of rebuilding any of the damaged schools. “This is a very early look of where we are,” Bernier said. “The facts and figures are truly subject to change. Just like a home renovation, you will find things you don’t expect. As we get in and begin to work on repairs we may find things.” Fort Myers News-Press. School officials have adjusted the academic calendar to make up some of the instructional time lost during the hurricane. Makeup days are Nov. 11, Feb. 17 and May 5, and early release days scheduled Feb. 22 and April 26 are now scheduled as full school days. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX.

Volusia: A 13-year-old student at Heritage Middle School in Deltona was arrested Tuesday and accused of having an unloaded handgun at school. Deputies were tipped by a parent who saw the boy show the gun to a classmate. The boy told deputies he brought the gun because he was being bullied. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Leon: District 4 school board candidates Laurie Cox and Alex Stemle, both education veterans, agree that the pandemic put students behind and that the school district could do a better job of communicating with parents. But they take different sides when the conversation turns to school vouchers. “I really believe that parents, in this day and age that we’re in, (parents) ought to have a choice of where to send their children,” Cox said. Stemle strongly disagrees. “I think the voucher program, while it seems very attractive on the outside, I think when you get to the meat and bones it’s going to really destroy our public education.” They also answered questions about metal detectors in schools, removing books from school libraries, and recovering learning lost during the pandemic. They meet in the runoff Nov. 8. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: About 150 school buses have been 90 minutes late or more in picking up students so far this month, according to the “late bus alerts” page on the school district’s website. District officials said they are 44 drivers short, and they’re meeting this week to consider possible solutions. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Ten Florida universities are named on U.S. News & World Report’s list of top global universities. The University of Florida is ranked 98th, Florida State University 241st, University of Miami 253rd, University of South Florida 317th, University of Central Florida 413th, Florida International University 468th, Florida Institute of Technology 412th, Florida Atlantic University 1,088th, Nova Southeastern University 1,106th, and Florida A&M University 1478th. Patch.

Education podcasts: Melody Bolduc, a home-schooling mother of two daughters and founder of a faith-based tutoring center for home-schoolers in Jacksonville, talks with Step Up For Students senior writer Lisa Buie about thinking creatively to find pathways to student success, the important of personalizing education, how the pandemic changed the perception of home-schooling and more. reimaginED.

More on NAEP testing: The gap between 4th-grade boys and girls in the NAEP math exam widened this year. In 2019, boys scored an average of 248 while girls scored 244. In 2022, boys posted a score of 244 and girls 238. Florida Phoenix. NAEP test scores were down for Duval students in three of the four categories, but the district did better than most other large U.S. school districts, according to school officials. WTLV.

Around the nation: U.S. school shootings are already at a record level with more than two months to go in the year. There have been 257 school shootings this year, breaking the record of 250 set just last year. Since 2018, 52 people have died in school shootings, which is seven more than died in the 18 years before 2018. The Conversation. Political partisanship in the pandemic has played a significant role in the wave of superintendents being fired in Florida and elsewhere in the country. The 74. The EPA is awarding nearly $1 billion to U.S. school districts to switch to electric school buses. Only about 1 percent of the nation’s 480,000 school buses are electric. Associated Press. WKMG. The U.S. Energy Department has announced a plan to make $80 million in grants to schools to help them with infrastructure upgrades, starting in November. Politico. A newly released report compiled by the Tyton Partners consulting firm shows that 52 percent of parents would rather direct and curate their child’s education than rely on their local school system, and 79 percent believe learning can and should happen everywhere as opposed to in school alone. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: Looking at all of the numbers across the board, the pandemic was a catastrophe for kids’ education in Florida and the United States. Slicing the numbers to look for a happy result completely misses the point. Tampa Bay Times. Broward school Superintendent Vickie Cartwright inherited problems, especially in construction, that have festered for many years. She has made a reasonable start in addressing them, and she deserves the chance the outgoing school board wisely gave her. Sun-Sentinel. The Palm Beach County School Board has an opportunity to make a meaningful decision when it chooses a name for a new high school that opens next fall. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff