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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.

TALLAHASSEE --- As Florida schools reopen this month, district superintendents are calling on state officials to address two major challenges: the need for rapid testing for COVID-19 and a statewide plan to handle students and staff members who test positive.

Stuck at home for months on end, plans canceled and upside down, the Reyes family felt like so many others during this pandemic-blighted summer: "We were just going crazy," says Ricardo Reyes. "We had to get out."

They rented an RV, packed daughter and dog, and drove from North Carolina to a getaway they assumed would be quiet. Three days into a trip at Yellowstone National Park, they could see their need to escape was in no way unique.

Man speaks at table
Florida Channel / WTVT-TV

Gov. Ron DeSantis held an education roundtable at a public charter high school in Riverview Monday.

There was some tension when members of the public asked questions, particularly about how Hillsborough County public schools will reopen.

A professor and student stand on a lawn near a pond at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg
Kerry Sheridan/WUSF

Holding classes outdoors is one way to reduce the risk of coronavirus, once school gets back in session. Professors at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg have mapped out 27 outdoor spaces across the 188-acre campus, and established a reservation system, so that more classes can be held in the open air.

Schools across New York state will be allowed to open for in-person learning this fall because of low coronavirus infection rates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

"We've been smart from day one. We do the masks, we do the social distancing, we've kept that infection rate down," Cuomo said during the announcement. "And we can bring the same level of intelligence to the school reopening that we brought to the economic reopening."

four photos of students and teachers
Florida Department of Education / Hillsborough County Schools

On Thursday, the Hillsborough County School Board voted to delay the opening of brick-and-mortar schools by four weeks, and operate entirely remotely.

Barely a day later, the Florida Department of Education said that plan won’t work.

Florida’s statewide teachers union is challenging the state’s order to open brick and mortar schools in the fall – and the lawsuit is being moved to a Leon County court.

The change of venue, to the Second judicial circuit, was granted after lawyers for the Department of Education filed a motion to do so. Angel Cortiñas is an attorney representing the state agency and other defendants, like Governor Ron DeSantis.

Exterior of elementary school with sign and vehicles in a parking lot.
Google Maps

Portions of a Manatee County elementary school were closed temporarily for disinfection earlier this week and some employees are quarantining at home after an employee learned they were positive for COVID-19 on the first day of staff training for the new school year.

A man wears a mask and gestures a thumbs up at a table
WUSF/Hillsborough County Schools

Hillsborough County Schools, Florida's third-largest school district and among the nation's top 10 in size, decided Thursday to delay the opening of brick-and-mortar schools by four weeks due to coronavirus concerns.

The School Board voted 5-2 to begin remote learning August 24, after hearing from medical experts who said the positive test rate for COVID-19 should be five percent or lower. In Hillsborough County, the rate is currently 11 percent. 

Richard Corcoran listens during a meeting
WFSU

With some students set to return to classrooms on Monday, state officials and Florida’s largest teachers union are locked in a legal battle over an order requiring schools to reopen this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

DAYLINA MILLER/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

Florida residents will get a break on the cost of school supplies this weekend during the state’s back-to-school sales tax holiday.

Sky Lebron/WJCT

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he would be “cautious” about linking school reopenings in Florida to COVID-19 positivity rates in communities.

man wearing a black face mask during a meeting
Sarasota County Schools

Children who attend school in Sarasota County will have to wear either a mask or clear face shield, except in a handful of circumstances, the school board decided by a unanimous 5-0 vote on Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends mask-wearing in public because it may slow the spread of coronavirus, especially when six feet of distance cannot be maintained. However, it does not recommend face shields as a substitute for masks.

Sarasota High School / Sarasota County Schools

The Sarasota County School Board on Tuesday will offer details on the school district’s reopening plan. They will also finalize the district’s mask policy, determining what constitutes a mask and what exceptions will be made.

Pinellas Delays Start Of School Year By 2 Weeks

Jul 29, 2020
Countryside High School sign on campus
CARL LISCIANDRELLO/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

The Pinellas County School Board voted Tuesday to delay the start of the school year from Aug. 12 to Aug. 24.

Florida Faculty Union Pushes For Remote Learning, Closed College Campuses In Fall

Jul 28, 2020
University of Florida sign on campus
UF DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS

Florida’s largest faculty union Monday called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials to order higher-education institutions to use remote learning through the fall.

a picture of a sports field at sunset
iStock

The statewide high school athletic association decided Thursday to postpone the start of the fall sports by one month, until Aug. 24, after initially voting to proceed as normal despite the recommendations of its own medical advisory board which said it was unsafe due to rising cases of coronavirus across Florida.

The move came after several greater Tampa Bay counties decided on their own to postpone football practice and other sports for a few weeks.

For American families with children, the pandemic has meant lost income, increased child care responsibilities, worry and stress. But a majority are not eager for schools to reopen this fall, given the health risk.

As school districts in Florida gear up to open brick and mortar campuses in the fall, Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s supporting choice for parents and students.

The state Department of Education’s emergency order calls for in-person instruction to be made available for the coming school year, unless local or state health departments say otherwise. But it also allows districts to get funding for students who opt for distance learning.

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

Many local school districts have pushed back their start dates, as talks continue about how to reopen safely in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are the latest plans from around the Tampa Bay region:

A school bus
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SCHOOLS

Pinellas County’s school superintendent is recommending that the start of school be delayed until Aug. 24.

Michael Grego announced Tuesday that he would recommend the two-week delay for both in-person and online learning options.

Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis
screenshot HillsboroughSchools.TV

If the Hillsborough County School Board approves a reopening plan on Thursday, in-person instruction at schools will begin Aug. 24. On Monday, Superintendent Addison Davis held a virtual town hall to address questions from parents and district employees.

Florida Teachers Union Sues State Over Reopening Schools

Jul 21, 2020
protesters holding signs about the reopening of Florida schools
Jennifer Kious

As Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran push to reopen schools in August, Florida’s largest teachers’ union on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking to block the return to in-person classes amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.

a picture of a brown brick elementary school building
Kerry Sheridan/WUSF

Many Florida schools are pressing ahead with reopening plans, and are in close consultation with area health departments. But are those public health officials putting any brakes on reopening, given the rising cases of coronavirus and COVID-19 deaths?

A national union for educators, school personnel, and nurses is calling on members of Congress to get back to Washington and fund schools. 

 

Congress is expected to reconvene this coming Monday after a Fourth of July recess.

Little girl is running towards a school bus and the words "Back 2 School" are embossed over it. A small shot of Addison Davis is in the bottom right corner.
Hillsborough County Public Schools

The Hillsborough County School Board continued to show how divided they are about returning to in-person instruction during the coronavirus pandemic.

The comments came after Superintendent Addison Davis presented a plan on Thursday that includes three options for families: face-to-face instruction, e-learning through each school, or the district’s own virtual school.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters on Wednesday the Florida Department of Education should not dictate local school-district decisions, even though the department issued an emergency order that says schools must reopen in August unless health officials say otherwise.

In Florida, an additional 10,181 people tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the state's total to more than 301,810 cases. Florida has averaged more than 10,000 cases a day for the past week, and some public health experts said the peak is still weeks away.

man smiles in photo
Sarasota County Schools

In a unanimous decision on Tuesday, the Sarasota County School Board chose Brennan Asplen III to be the new superintendent.

Acknowledging that they were presented with five well-qualified finalists, the board ultimately decided that Asplen, currently the Deputy Superintendent with the St. Johns School District, stood out above the rest.

Strawberry Crest High School
GOOGLE MAPS

Update July 22: See here for the latest story on school reopening plans in the greater Tampa Bay region.

Four school districts in the greater Tampa Bay region are pushing to move their start dates back amid the coronavirus pandemic and concern from teachers.

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