School district rezoning plans, bathroom ruling, charter school in jeopardy, girls in college and more

Around the state: Opposition is mounting to the Hillsborough County School District’s proposals for rezoning that would affect up to 24,000 students, St. Johns school Superintendent Tim Forson welcomed an appeals court decision that the district did not violate a male transgender student’s rights by requiring him to use gender-neutral or girls bathrooms, an administrative law judge rules that the Volusia school district did not violate a disabled student’s individualized education plan or retaliate against him, the most popular vending machines in Treasure Coast schools are the ones that dispense books, a Citrus County charter school faces closure if it can’t raise money for school repairs in the next month, and a study shows that female college enrollment fell during the pandemic at more than double the rate of males. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: Parents and PTA leaders are continuing to rally opposition to the district’s expansive rezoning plans. Three options are being considered that would affect anywhere from 11,000 to 24,000 students and repurpose several schools. School officials said the changes are necessary to save millions of dollars and better balance enrollment among schools. Parents said the proposals will cause unnecessary upheaval, ruin feeder programs and cause transportation issues. Public meetings are scheduled every evening next week, and the school board is expected to make a decision in late February. WUSF. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. Spectrum News 9. With the expansion of school choice programs, traditional schools are getting more creative to attract students. At Brandon High School, that has meant adding a Cambridge Advanced International Certification program, a curriculum that combines elements of International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement, and teaching critical thinking skills through models such as escape rooms. “Problem solving allows me to think more, so I will have better ideas,” said Kennedy Weaver, 14. “It will help me with other classes too.” Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia: Seabreeze High School did not violate Lance Avery’s individualized education plan for students with disabilities or retaliate against him, a state administrative law judge has ruled. The complaint contended that the district illegally excluded Avery, who has Down syndrome, from activities, denied him elective courses and placed him in a more restricted program, violating his individual plan, impeding his progress and triggering severe sensory issues. Avery’s mother, Anni Suadi, called the decision “really unfair. It’s just a big lie, and they’re going to have to come true on this. I’m not going to stop.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

St. Johns: A federal appeals court’s ruling last week that the district’s policy preventing a transgender male student from using boys bathrooms at Nease High School did not violate the student’s rights was welcomed by Superintendent Tim Forson. “We are pleased with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal decision in the Drew Adams’ case. The court’s opinion was supported by sound legal reasoning and common sense. Under this decision, the district will be able to protect all students’ rights.” When Adams was a student at Nease, he was required to use a gender-neutral, single-stall bathroom or girls bathrooms. His lawsuit argued that the district violated his equal protection rights and Title IX, a federal law that prevents discrimination based on sex in education programs. WJXT.
Sarasota: Pine View School senior Ethan Messier has been appointed as a student representative to the Embracing Our Differences’ Students Take Active Roles board. Messier, 17, has been a member of the organization’s of leadership training program that, when completed, makes students eligible to serve as a voting board member for one of STAR’s 90 partner agencies. “When I had the opportunity to join EOD’s board of directors, it was a no-brainer,” Messier said. “EOD genuinely believes in amplifying the voices of young people and uplifting kids in a world where it is needed more than ever.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: The most popular vending machines in Treasure Coast schools aren’t the ones dispensing snacks, candies and drinks. They’re the ones where students can get books. In Martin County, for instance, every elementary and middle school has a book vending machine where students can get books using special coins they’ve earned for academic achievements. The program is so popular that it may expand into high schools. In Indian River County, students earn “surf tickets” with good behavior that can be turned into coins to buy books from dispensers. TCPalm.
Leon: Amid falling test scores, rising mental health needs and other concerns, district students still found ways to achieve and contribute to the community in 2022. Here are eight examples. Tallahassee Democrat.
Hernando: School board members recently approved spending $2 million to expand the Winding Waters K-8 kitchen and dining area and $781,700 to replace the roof and make other repairs at district headquarters. The board also allocated up to $500,000 a year for companies to maintain buildings, electrical and lighting controls, fire alarms and sprinklers, HVAC and building controls and plumbing systems. Suncoast News.
Citrus: Officials at the Academy of Environmental Science charter school in Crystal River say they have until February to find the funding needed for structural repairs. If they can’t find financing, the school won’t stay open, said Michelle Leeper, the chair of the school’s board of directors. The financial crisis came to a head when the school had to drain its reserves to repair a damaged elevator shaft. “We’ve spent $700,000 in the past 10 years making constant repairs just to maintain,” she said. “We’ve painted, replaced the A/C and other things, but this is major construction that’s needed, and because the building is more than 40 years old, the codes are different now.” Citrus County Chronicle.
Flagler: A 10-year-old 5th-grader at Christ the King Academy in Palm Coast has gotten a children’s book published by CS Design, a Palm Coast marketing/publishing company. Bella Soumokil’s 56-page book is called Fred the Great, and it tells the story of selfish frog whose “demands for everyone to follow his rules to keep order come to a screeching halt when Fred finds himself in the stomach of a huge catfish named Tigger.” Flagler Live.
Colleges and universities: Miami Dade College is among many state and college communities without an onsite counseling center that is turning to telehealth to help students who need mental health services. “When we first started offering the services, the services were really not being utilized to the maximum capacity. And it was not until the pandemic that it’s as if people were given a reason that it was okay not to be okay,” said Jaime Anzalotta, who oversees student wellness at the school. WLRN.
Around the nation: Female college enrollment fell during the pandemic at more than double the rate of males, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Overall enrollment of freshmen declined by 1.5 percent from 2020 to 2022, but the rate for women was 3.2 percent compared to 1.2 percent for men. “The pandemic disproportionately harmed women, particularly women of color and low-income women, and this is one more example of that impact,” said Catherine Brown, senior director of policy and advocacy for the National College Attainment Network. The 74.
Opinions on schools: The ACT and SAT are not intrinsically evil instruments. They can be used toward bad ends, but they can also be used to point the way toward providing equitable opportunities to earn bachelors’ degrees in STEM fields and others. What’s holding Florida back from making progress isn’t the tests – it’s the policymakers who refuse to pursue good ideas for extending opportunities to broader populations of students. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. If a child is starving, or abused, or suffering from anxiety and depression, or is the caretaker of young siblings, how can that child learn from a teacher who does not teach with those obstacles in mind? Jonathan Peacock, Pensacola News Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff