Idalia cleanup and recovery begins, some school districts closed through Labor Day, black history fight, scholarship purchasing guides, and more

Assessing Idalia’s impact: Hurricane Idalia came ashore Wednesday morning at Keaton Beach in Taylor County as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds after briefly touching Category 4 status. It brought high winds, heavy rains and storm surges that caused flooding in streets and homes over a 200-mile stretch between Tampa and Tallahassee. Just under 200,000 people are still reported without power, but only one possible storm-related traffic death has been reported so far, said Gov. Ron DeSantis, and there are no outstanding missing persons reports. Now everyone’s attention turns to the cleanup and recovery, including a resumption of classes at schools. Associated Press. USA Today Florida Network. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. National Hurricane Center. WeatherTiger. New York Times.

School closings: Most of the 47 K-12 school districts that were closed Tuesday or Wednesday or both are reopening today or Friday. Still shuttered today are the Baker, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Madison, Polk, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union and Wakulla districts, as well as Florida A&M, Florida State, Eastern Florida State College and Tallahassee Community College. But several near Idalia’s landfall are expected to close through Labor Day, and perhaps longer. Florida Politics. WJXT. WCJB. Florida Department of Education. Reports from some districts that are reopening today. Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando. Orange, Seminole, Marion. Lake, Osceola. Brevard. Lee, Collier. Manatee. Volusia, Flagler, Polk, Sumter. Leon. Alachua. Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto. Hernando. Bradford, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns. Calhoun. Gulf. What goes into a district’s decision when to reopen schools after a storm like Idalia? Tampa Bay Times. Jacksonville Today.

Around the state: NAACP leaders in Indian River County complain that the Moms for Liberty hijacked their message protesting the state’s black history curriculum at this week’s school board meeting, an administrative judge recommends that a fired Palm Beach County teacher be rehired despite a series of disciplinary incidents, the U.S. Department of Education has given Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers permission to “pursue alternate institutional accreditation,” and purchasing guides have been created to help parents understand what education-related expenses are permissible for their respective state scholarships. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A former 3rd-grade teacher at Heron Heights Elementary in Parkland has had her teaching license suspended for a year for giving students answers on the state’s standardized test in April 2022, according to a state Education Practices Commission investigation. Kerry Betts, 45, also faces two years of probation and has to take a class in education ethics to get her license back, according to the state. Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: An administrative judge is recommending that a longtime teacher keep her job despite her dismissal in July 2022 after a series of disciplinary incidents. In one, she told a colleague she was so stressed that she was going to go “up in a tower in a clown suit with a rifle.” In another, she said “f— you” to a student with special needs, Instead, the judge suggested, Diane Baumann, who had taught at K.E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary, should be suspended for 20 to 30 days. That recommendation now goes to the superintendent and school board. The next board meeting is Sept. 6. Palm Beach Post. The Learning Center, a charter school for children with autism, recently completed its move from Jupiter to the former site of the Western Academy charter school. “We pulled a miracle,” said Cathy Sharp, the school’s PTO president. “We didn’t know if we were going to open on time.” Palm Beach Post.

Indian River: NAACP leaders who intended to protest against the state’s new black history curriculum at this week’s school board meeting said the meeting was “hijacked” by the Moms for Liberty group, who submitted their forms early so its members could speak first. Then they read sexually explicit passages from disputed library books for several hours. Forty of the 54 people who got to speak complained about books, while only 14 got to address the black history curriculum. Jennifer Pippin, the president of the local Moms for Liberty chapter, denied the group’s plan was to undercut the NAACP’s message. TCPalm.

Colleges and universities: Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers has been given approval by the U.S. Department of Education to “pursue alternate institutional accreditation” to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. A state law approved last year requires all state colleges and universities to change accreditors every 10 years. Inside Higher Ed.

Choice purchasing guides: Two purchasing guides have been created by organizations that administer the state’s scholarship programs to provide clarity to parents on what education-related expenses are permissible for their respective scholarship. One of the guides is for the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options and Florida Tax Credit Scholarships. They are open to all students and include those choosing the new personalized education program. The other guide is for students using the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, a program aimed at children with special needs that offers larger funding amounts and a wider range of eligible uses. “Our hope is that guardians will sit down with their student learning plans and their students as they look through the guides and they get more ideas to use their funds to create a better experience for their families,” said Catherine Bridgers, senior director for process improvement and risk management at Step Up For Students, which is the state’s largest scholarship funding organization and host of this blog. reimaginED.

Around the nation: Teacher vacancies jumped 51 percent this year, according to a report from researchers at Kansas State University, University of Pittsburgh and other institutions. The findings “clearly indicate” most states have shortages “to some degree,” and that “teacher turnover surged during the pandemic with more teachers leaving the profession than ever before.” But turnover is projected to plateau at 12 percent after hitting 14 percent during the 2021-2022 school year. K-12 Dive. The “parental rights” movement in education has been pushed for the last 40 years by a wealthy Christian lawyer whose ideas finally found a partner in large parts of the Republican party and in increasingly conservative courts. “(Michael Farris) is our hero. He is the father of the modern movement in parental rights,” said Patti Sullivan, a Florida home-schooling parent who introduced Farris’ ideas to a state legislator and began the process to passage of the state’s Parental Rights in Education law in 2021. Washington Post.

Opinions on schools: Here are three of the unspoken rules for achievement that Florida school districts should explicitly offer students this school year: Allow them to find purpose in all of their activities; teach them how to form meaningful relationships in school; and help them and teachers by supporting their mental health. Anindya Kundu, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff