Idalia threatens Gulf Coast and school closures, NE Florida districts reject PragerU materials, district closed for metal detector installation, and more

Storm threatens state: A state of emergency has been declared for 33 Florida counties along or near the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to move offshore and make landfall somewhere between the Tampa Bay and Big Bend areas by mid-week. It’s projected to develop into a hurricane today and bring strong winds, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding up the west coast. Most school districts are adopting a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to close schools. But Hernando County school officials announced Sunday that classes are suspended today at least through Wednesday, and Citrus schools will release students after a half-day today and be closed Tuesday and Wednesday because emergency officials need to use some schools as shelters. Taylor County school officials also said students will be released at noon Tuesday. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics. Hernando Sun. Hernando Today. Citrus County Chronicle. Bradenton Herald. Naples Daily News. WKMG. WMFE. WFLA. WFTS. WFTX. Spectrum News 9. Weather Tiger. Florida Department of Education. National Hurricane Center.

Around the state: Five northeast Florida school districts say PragerU instructional material have not been approved for use in classrooms, a Columbia County high school is closed today while metal detectors are being installed after two men with guns were arrested at the school’s football game Friday, Lee County school officials will consider making Narcan available at schools to treat opioid overdoses, random classroom screenings will be conducted in Seminole County schools, Brevard officials said Sunday that a high school’s varsity and junior varsity football teams can resume play this week after a suspension over a hazing incident, and the state’s chief financial officer said his office might launch an investigation into the search for a Florida Atlantic University president that was halted by the state because of alleged anomalies. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Parents who are looking for free or low-cost after-school programs can now dial the local resource hotline 211 or check the website for hundreds of potential options. The “one-stop shop” for parents is provided by the school district, the county, the Children’s Trust and Jewish Community Services of South Florida. “After-care programming is extremely important,” said school Superintendent Jose Dotres. “Every single opportunity that we have to extend learning and provide additional opportunities for them to learn is very, very significant.” WLRN.

Palm Beach: Restoration of West Palm Beach’s historic Roosevelt High School will begin in December, district officials said last week. Plans for the renovation of Roosevelt, which opened in 1950 as one of the county’s two black schools before integration, have been long delayed. “We recognize the historical significance of the campus, and we want to bring it back: restore those facilities and put them back to good use,” Superintendent Mike Burke. Phase 1 includes renovating the high school’s gym and former electrical shop, and constructing a two-story building on the site. Funding for the $21 million project will come from the district’s sales tax increase and an outside grant. The scheduled completion date is June 2025. Phase 2, which includes a long-promised black history museum and resource library, remains uncertain because of funding. Palm Beach Post.

Northeast Florida: At least five northeast Florida school districts said content produced for school classrooms by the conservative nonprofit advocacy organization PragerU has not been approved for use. Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Putnam and Baker district officials said that while the Florida Department of Education has said PragerU’s “material(s) aligns to Florida’s revised civics and government standards,” it is optional and that they are choosing not to use them. A spokesperson for the St. Johns district said, “Teachers are expected to follow the curriculum maps for the course they are instructing. This resource is not included in the curriculum maps.” Jacksonville Today. A program to help northeast Florida students earn a diploma outside of traditional schooling is being praised by those students as a beneficial lifeline. Eckerd Connects Workforce Development is a free program for students 16 to 24 years old who are out of traditional schools for various reasons. It pairs students with local companies that provide training leading to jobs. WJXT.

Polk: The name of a 104-year-old World War II veteran who became a self-taught professional photographer has been attached to Lakeland’s Rochelle School of the Arts laboratory where three-dimensional creations are made. The Herman Jenkins Fabrication Laboratory honors the 1937 graduate of Washington Park High School. “His legacy to the African American Baby Boomer generation is that of a photographer,” said school principal Carole Griffin said. School board member Kay Fields made the recommendation to honor Jenkins, who lives in a nursing home. “One of the things that I always say is give people flowers while they can still smell them — so he’s still alive and I’m sure he’s going to be excited to know that something has been named in his honor.” Lakeland Now.

Lee: School board members will consider a proposal to make the overdose reversing drug called Narcan available in schools. Narcan can counter the sometimes fatal effects of an opioid overdose, such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription drugs in 2 to 3 minutes and is not considered harmful if given to a student with no opioids in their system. If the use of Narcan is approved, the district will work with Lee Health on a protocol for its use, safe storage and labeling. WBBH.

Brevard: Viera High School varsity and junior varsity football teams will begin playing games again this week after being suspended last week over a hazing incident. District officials made the announcement Sunday afternoon. “Several factors went into today’s decision, including players and parents attending a meeting shortly after the hazing incident was discovered, players and coaches taking part in an anti-hazing educational program, the players remaining engaged during two late-week practices, and progress in the hazing investigation,” district officials said in the statement. Florida Today. WOFL.

Seminole: Random classroom screenings will be conducted in district schools, district officials announced Friday. During the screenings, students will leave their backpacks when they exit the classroom and K-9 dogs will search the classroom for banned items while students are checked with a hand-held metal detectors. WKMG.

Volusia: A 15-year-old Mainland High School student was arrested Thursday and accused of having a gun on campus. A school resource officer was tipped about a video on Instagram of the student with the gun in a school bathroom. The weapon was confiscated without incident. Officers said additional arrests may be made. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG.

Columbia: Columbia High School is closed today while metal detectors are installed. Students can take their classes online, and return to school tomorrow. Friday, two men with guns were arrested at the school’s football game. “The temporary closure and installation of metal detectors are proactive steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our students,” said Superintendent Lex Carswell. “We believe that by implementing these measures, we can provide the peace of mind that our students and their families deserve.” WCJB. WJXT. WTLV.

Colleges and universities: Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, said his office might launch an investigation into the search for a Florida Atlantic University president that was halted by the state because of alleged anomalies. “Very concerned. Lots of smoke surrounding this process,” Patronis posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “As the state’s CFO my office has the authority to investigate any fraud, waste, or abuse that may be happening in the state. I’m prepared to use it. Will continue monitoring. FAU deserves better.” Sun-Sentinel. An appeals court has rejected two lawsuits that contended the University of Central Florida should be required to refund student fees because of the campus shutdown during the pandemic. News Service of Florida. Students and professors at New College claim the beginning of the school year has been chaotic because of all the changes recently made by the state. CNN. WFTS. Hodges University, a private school in Fort Myers, announced last week that it is closing by August 2024. Officials cite declining enrollment and financial challenges. WGCU. Naples Daily News. WFTX. WBBH. The incoming class of the University of Florida’s College of Nursing — 331 –is the largest in the 70-year history of the school. Gainesville Sun.

School trustees appointed: Four trustees have been appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Florida Scholars Academy, which was created during the last legislative session by state lawmakers help youths in the Department of Juvenile Justice system to earn high school diplomas or GEDs and enroll in postsecondary education programs. Trustees are: Marva Johnson, vice president of Charter Communications; Robert Ward, president and CEO of the Florida Council of 100; Dan McGrew, vice president of CareerSource Florida; and Christopher Moya, director of strategy and management consulting for the commercial law and lobbying firm Dean Mead. They join Eric Hall, secretary of the DJJ, or his designee. Florida Politics.

Closer look at the CLT: The creator of the Classic Learning Test, which could be adopted this week by Florida’s Board of Governors as an alternative to the SAT and ACT for college admission eligibility, says he is uneasy about being dragged into the culture war over what is considered “woke.” Mother Jones.

Opinions on schools: State-required falsehoods about the past distort the present and serve to undermine national unity and stifle progressive change toward racial equality. History is under attack. William F. Felice, Tampa Bay Times. A letter written by a slave owner to a slave trader provides illumination to these statements in Florida’s black history curriculum: “Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing, transportation),” and “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Charles B. Dew, Tampa Bay Times. New legislation requiring waivers for a student to be called by anything other than his legal name comes, of course, courtesy of Gov. Ronald DeSantis (who prefers to go by “Ron”) and the party that has historically advocated for less government interference in people’s personal lives. Beyond that irony, the rule is impractical and problematic in any number of ways. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff