Florida schools struggle to meet state demands on opening, pay | #teacher | #children | #kids

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration continued to stamp their mark on the state’s education system as election day approaches. Districts scrambled to meet the Department of Education’s Oct. 1 deadline to submit pay raise plans, a goal set by the governor that many systems cannot achieve. In south Florida, school boards saw the department reject their campus reopening plans as inconsistent with the governor’s directives. And speaking of directives, districts also dealt with public confusion about what DeSantis’ move to further lift pandemic-inspired restrictions might mean in the schools. Read on for the latest.

The Legislature aimed to boost base teacher salaries this year, at the governor’s call. Some school districts, including Pinellas and Hernando, say the state allocation isn’t enough, so they’re asking voters to increase local tax rates to add more to the bottom line. • Southwest Florida school officials are working out the details how to distribute raises, WINK reports. • The Lake County district appears unable to reach DeSantis’ $47,500 target for base pay, even with the state money, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Districts aren’t looking to voters only to support the operating budget. The Okaloosa County School Board has called a referendum to increase the local sales tax to help pay for needed capital projects, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. • Polling show strong support for Duval County’s school sales tax ballot initiative, Florida Politics reports. • Revenue from Hillsborough County’s recently adopted sales tax is on the rebound after being squeezed by the pandemic.

School vouchers are playing a key role in Florida elections. Supporters and opponents are targeting key races that could help determine the balance of power in Tallahassee, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The governor also has pushed for schools to open their doors. This Pinellas County teacher is so glad to be back. Rhonda Rayman’s children would prefer she “stay home in bubble wrap.” But there’s no place she’d rather be than in Lakewood Elementary.

Reopening schools hasn’t caused a mass surge in Florida’s virus cases, according to a USA Today analysis. Following safety protocols helped manage the spread, and should still happen, experts told USA Today. After all, little is known about what path the virus will take next.

Some Palm Beach County teachers have sued to keep their campuses closed. They’re also calling on their School Board to resign over the district’s reopening order, WPTV reports. • Meanwhile, the district is asking parents to pick a schooling model and stick with it for the second quarter, the Palm Beach Post reports.

South Florida’s school boards decided to delay reopening in-person learning until mid-October. The Florida Department of Education rejected that idea for Miami-Dade County, saying it doesn’t fit the district’s approved reopening plan, the Miami Herald reports. It took a similar tack with the Broward County school district, the Sun-Sentinel reports. They have until Oct. 2 to respond. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, Hillsborough County? There is this, though: Broward superintendent Robert Runcie said he has no intention of changing his district’s direction, WPLG reports.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent Alberto Carvalho leans over to greet students on Aug. 31, 2020. The state has rejected his district’s plan to reopen classrooms for in-person schooling beginning in mid-October. [ CARL JUSTE | AP ]

Many families love full-time virtual schooling. Without COVID-19, they never would have considered it, the Villages Daily Sun reports.

Others can’t wait to get back to campus. Lake County schools saw a surge in students returning to “brick and mortar” classes as the positivity rate declined, the Daily Commercial reports.

Most schools are requiring students and staff to wear masks. Collier County schools have now required double layered ones, WINK reports.

Childcare centers are making a comeback. They’re starting to reopen after months away because of coronavirus, the Herald-Tribune reports. The heated debate that surrounded K-12 reopening largely didn’t happen.

The coronavirus can’t stop school theater. It’s ‘just six feet apart’ in Okaloosa schools, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Schools are vigilant about responding to possible virus symptoms. One Jacksonville mom said they’re being too strict, as they attempted to remove her child with autism because of the tics he has, WTLV reports.

School sports continue to be a point of debate amid COVID-19 concerns. In South Florida, the privates kicked off high school athletic competitions well before the publics, the Palm Beach Post reports. • A Polk County high school canceled football activities for two weeks over virus exposures, the Ledger reports. • The Leon County Commission has set cross country testing and related standards that led the FHSAA to consider relocating state championships, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Teachers are working really hard. Sarasota County superintendent Brennan Asplen recognized it, and announced plans to convert two class days into planning days so the faculty can take a breath and catch up, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Don’t cut their jobs. That’s U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s message to Hillsborough County school officials, who are talking about slashing positions amid budget concerns.

Check out those new digs. Students and staff at an aging Lee County middle school will have a new campus next year, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

From the police blotter … A Hillsborough County elementary school security officer was arrested on accusations of child abuse.

Before you go … DeSantis’ decision to move Florida to “Phase 3” of its pandemic response left some confusion over what happens next with mask ordinances and other related health rules put in place to slow the coronavirus spread. School districts across the state aimed to make clear that the action did not change their current restrictions — at least not yet. From a couple of the big ones …

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