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Florida Schools Weigh Later Starts, Online Options for Fall

School districts in Florida are contemplating a wide range of approaches to the resumption of school this coming fall, with those ranging from delayed start dates to required masks to online education.

by Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times / July 15, 2020
School leaders are being challenged to navigate different public health guidelines while also weighing risks associated with not reopening buildings, including students falling behind in learning. Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

(TNS) — Since Tuesdays are regular school board meeting days, it comes as no surprise that today’s news is dominated by school districts’ continuing attempts to find a path toward reopening that meets family and staff expectations while also keeping in line with state demands. Those two things aren’t always compatible, leaving board members and administrators playing an elaborate game of Twister to get their hands and feet on all the colors. Read on for that and the rest of today’s Florida education news.

The Pinellas County, Fla., board spent nearly five hours going over its plan. The proposal is so fluid that it could change numerous times before the scheduled first day of classes. Teachers and others protested outside the meeting, while parents sent a petition asking for a virtual-only return.

Pasco County’s administration came through with a mask mandate. The propose rule defines what counts as a mask, who has to wear one, when and where.Duval County added a mask requirement to its revised reopening plan, too, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Online only, you say? That’s where the Broward County School Board is headed to start the year, barring a massive turnaround in health conditions, the Sun-Sentinel reports.A group of Manatee and Sarasota teachers and parents are asking for the same thing, the Bradenton Herald reports.There’s a movement afoot in Duval County, as well, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Who says classes have to begin as expected? The Sarasota County School Board decided to ask the state for permission to start three weeks late as part of its plan, the Herald-Tribune reports.A Palm Beach County board member expects to encourage her colleagues to do the same when they meet Wednesday, the Palm Beach Post reports.Orange and Seminole counties also are headed that direction, the Orlando Sentinel reports.Republican State Rep. Rene Plasencia, a teacher, suggests they have the right approach in mind, Florida Phoenix reports.

Some districts aren’t waiting to change their dates. Brevard County’s superintendent pushed the first day back by a week to provide more planning time, Florida Today reports.Osceola County postponed opening by two weeks, WKMG reports.Polk County chose a two-week pause, as well, the Ledger reports.

And some aren’t changing. Bay County schools will stick to Aug. 11, WJHG reports. The district has shifted its stance on masks, though.

The back-to-school tax holiday isn’t moving, either. It’s still set for Aug. 7-9, Bay News 9 reports.

A major concern remains virus spread, something state leaders contend is less risky in schools. Don’t tell that to Volusia County, where a student who had been training with his high school football team tested positive, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.The same day, the district withdrew virus liability waivers it had sent “inadvertently” to student athletes and coaches, the News-Journal reports.

Look at this whole thing as an opportunity. State education officials suggest the pandemic has given Florida’s schools a chance to refashion themselves, Florida Politics reports.Want to hear more? The Florida Board of Education meets in person today at 9 a.m. in east Hillsborough County’s Strawberry Crest High. Commissioner Richard Corcoran is set to provide an update on reopening and CARES Act funding. Not going? You can watch on The Florida Channel.

He’s in charge now. The Sarasota County school district has a new superintendent, the Herald-Tribune reports.

About that Trump administration plan to require international students to leave if their universities offered online-only courses. It’s rescinded, the Associated Press reports.

Don’t forget about teacher pay raises. Leon County district leaders say their salaries won’t get near the $47,500 minimum that Gov. Ron DeSantis touted, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Did you miss a story? Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Some people say they don’t understand all the concern about heading back to bricks and mortar schools in August. But to the many teachers, parents and others who are protesting the move, the issue is crystal clear. And they’re sharing this chart to make the point.

©2020 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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