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Education

We're dedicated to telling you stories about policy and public spending, and how they affect students in Florida schools. Our WUSF News reporters team up with our public media partners across Florida to bring you a more comprehensive look at learning.

To see coverage from our prior StateImpact Florida project, visit here.

Doctor holding and looking down at baby
fcaap.org

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new statement Friday clarifying its position when it comes to schools reopening this fall.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at the podium
WFSU

As the number of coronavirus cases in Florida continues to climb, local education officials and parents are grappling with a statewide mandate to reopen schools in August.

masks on a table.
iStock

The Hillsborough County superintendent of schools announced students and staff returning to public schools on Aug. 10th will be required to wear face masks.

A picture of desks and walls inside a classroom
iStock

On Monday, Florida's Education Commissioner issued an emergency order for brick and mortar schools to reopen for the fall, with the full array of services schools provide.

It said "school openings must be consistent with safety precautions as defined by the Florida Department of Health, local health officials and supportive of Floridians, young and adult, with underlying conditions that make them medically vulnerable."

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET

President Trump vowed to exert pressure on states to reopen their school districts this fall even as large parts of the country are experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

"We're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools," Trump said during a roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon at the White House.

Florida Orders Public Schools To Reopen 5 Days A Week In August

Jul 7, 2020
Exterior shot of Countryside High School
CARL LISCIANDRELLO/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Monday ordered public schools to reopen in August and offer “the full panoply of services” to students and families.

children sit at desks spaces six feet apart and wear blue medical masks
Hernando County School District

In June, Governor Ron DeSantis called for K-12 schools to reopen in full this fall, but left it up to individual school boards to figure out how to do that.

In the space of a month, the landscape has changed dramatically. Coronavirus cases in Florida are surging to new heights. But that hasn’t yet stopped local school districts from rolling out draft guidance for reopening, offering a blend of in-person instruction and virtual learning options.

Chart showing responses to Pasco County Schools reopening survey
Pasco County Schools Facebook Page

The Pasco County School District has extended the deadline for people to weigh in on fall options for returning students through Wednesday, July 8.

The original deadline was July 1, but the district noted that an increase in coronavirus cases could cause parents and students to change their minds about their choices.

Children in a classroom
iStock

Florida school districts have begun to release their plans to bring students back to school in August amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, Florida, as well as the Tampa Bay area, posted record high daily increases in new cases of COVID-19.  

WUSF asked about your thoughts on this issue: How Should Florida Schools Proceed With Reopening In The Fall? Here are some of your responses.

DeSantis Signs School Vouchers Expansion In Tampa

Jun 25, 2020
man sitting down and signing a bill surrounded by others standing
Alysia Cruz / WUSF Public Media

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation in Tampa Thursday that will dramatically expand a voucher program that helps students go to private schools, the latest step in a two-decade push to expand school choice in Florida. 

A chart of the three models with a photo of a man in the bottom left corner.
Hillsborough County Public Schools

As Hillsborough County students prepare for school in August, the district is working on what that return will look like.

During a school board workshop on Tuesday, Superintendent Addison Davis presented three models for reopening, each linked to different levels of spread of the disease.

Gov. DeSantis Signs Bill Increasing Minimum Teacher Pay In Florida

Jun 24, 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the teacher pay bill
WFSU

After warning of big budget vetoes because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday secured the fate of one major spending item: teacher pay increases. 

The Republican governor signed into law a measure that sets the stage for spending $500 million to try to boost the minimum salaries of classroom teachers to at least $47,500 and to give raises to veteran teachers.

Two yellow school buses
Manatee County School District

For much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manatee County's school board room has been closed to the public. Meetings have been broadcast online and on TV but public comments were only accepted by email.

At least two-thirds of American high school students attend a school with a police officer, according to the Urban Institute, and that proportion is higher for students of color. Now, the national uprising for racial justice has led to a push to remove police officers from security positions inside schools.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SCHOOLS

School districts across Florida are announcing plans for the coming school year. Some across Tampa Bay are also soliciting feedback from parents on the best ways to proceed.

What would you like to see? Are you comfortable with classrooms opening full-time with precautions, or should school districts expand options for online learning?

Pasco County Schools photo of four children sitting outside a school building
Pasco County Schools

The Pasco County School District has presented three options for returning students in the fall that work around the coronavirus pandemic.

Pinellas County 's  Return To School Survey image
Pinellas County Schools

The Pinellas County School district is asking students, families, staff and community members for input on reopening schools.

The Return to School survey measures comfort levels on models of instruction, bus transportation, social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and the use of Personal Protective Equipment in classrooms.

Annabel Claprood waved and giggled at her computer screen as her name was called, donning a navy blue cap and gown for her virtual graduation from the small private school she transferred to halfway through junior year.

When she had pictured this moment, she saw herself in burgundy.

Florida Eases Rules On Bright Futures Scholarship Program Amid Coronavirus

Jun 13, 2020
Richard Corcoran at podium
NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran late Wednesday signed an emergency order that eases some eligibility requirements for awards under the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program.

Woman presents man with a plaque at a podium while surrounded by others
Alysia Cruz / WUSF Public Media

On the first anniversary of the death of Hezekiah Walters, Hillsborough County Public Schools announced new training protocols and safety procedures aimed at preventing heat-related illnesses.

Walters, 14, collapsed and died June 11, 2019, after participating in summer football conditioning at Middleton High School.

Florida Releases Plan To Reopen Schools

Jun 11, 2020
man stands at podium with flag and interpreter behind him
News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials on Thursday released a plan to reopen public schools at full capacity in August, saying that vulnerable kids and Floridians need the return to in-person instruction.

“While there may be challenges regionally, Florida’s workforce and students with the greatest needs are counting on schools to fight to stay open,” the Florida Department of Education stated in the 143-page plan issued Thursday.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools' chief academic officer is a top contender to be superintendent of the school district in Sarasota County.

An elderly man in a blue suit with a striped tie and glasses
USF Advance/Facebook

Thomas Terrell Sessums is being remembered for his leadership, love of community, and advocacy on behalf of fair education. 

The former Florida Speaker of the House and longtime partner of Salem Law Group died Saturday at the age of 89.

Florida’s largest teachers union wants to suspend state exams and evaluations of school and teacher performance as part of a larger plan for how to reopen schools during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

USF sign on campus
CARL LISCIANDRELLO/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

Sunday is the annual enrollment deadline for parents who want to put their kids in Florida’s Prepaid College Tuition program.

A young man poses with a kitten in a selfie, a young woman in her senior photo
Bryson Jackson, Emily Kemp

 From job loss, to balancing work from home to the isolation of following stay-at-home orders, coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. WUSF is giving you a voice to share those experiences. Today, three graduating seniors share their hopes for what the world will look like in the future.

A screen shot of the page in the student newspaper
Seminole High School

Coronavirus brought schools to a halt in March, two months before the end of the year and dashing plans for prom and graduation.

Students at Seminole High School are documenting the effect of coronavirus on their lives and the absences they've endured, through poetry, pictures, and a special supplement to the yearbook.

Two senior pictures of student Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams

High school seniors have missed out on a lot since the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools. Today, we meet Rachel Williams, a senior at Winter Haven High School, who talked about the new perspective she gained.

Austin Beutner looked haggard, his face a curtain of worry lines. The superintendent of the second-largest school district in the nation sat at a desk last week delivering a video address to Los Angeles families. But he began with a stark message clearly meant for another audience:

Lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

A picture of African-American man in graduate cap and gown
Elijah Seay

The coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close about two months before the end of the school year, stripping away many of the common high school rituals such as proms and graduation ceremonies. 

Some high school students even lost family members, like Elijah Seay, 18, who is graduating from Lennard High School in Ruskin.

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