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Florida has kept its schools open this year. Is that the right move?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Students congregate on campus before the doors open during the first day of school for Pasco County Schools on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at Gulf Middle School in New Port Richey.
Students congregate on campus before the doors open during the first day of school for Pasco County Schools on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at Gulf Middle School in New Port Richey. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Dec. 9, 2020

Unlike many other states, Florida has insisted that K-12 schools offer in-person classes for students who want or need them. That decision has prompted heavy debate, as people weigh the risks of the virus spread alongside the academic and social benefits of being in a classroom with peers and teachers, among other factors. How to do it safely remains the biggest concern. Read on for the latest on that and other Florida education news.

How safe is it to keep schools open during the pandemic? It’s a complicated risk-reward calculation, Politifact reports.

Polk County schools have a mask mandate. Some School Board members haven’t followed the policy, prompting another to stay away from meetings, the Ledger reports.

Say goodbye to simultaneous teaching of in-person and online students. The St. Johns County school district will abandon the unpopular method in the second semester, the St. Augustine Record reports. • The Bay County School Board voted to end its live remote class option for all but advanced students, WJHG reports.

Schools are urging online students to return to campus. About 16,000 Lee County children will get such a call before winter break, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • At the university level, schools are offering more in-person classes, but the number of sections will remain lower than usual as many remain remote, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

As they come, teachers want to be protected. In Central Florida, they’re asking to be among the first in line when the vaccine arrives, WFTV reports.

A nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine before administering it to Sister Joanna Sloan, left, the first person in Northern Ireland to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Florida teachers want access to a vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
A nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine before administering it to Sister Joanna Sloan, left, the first person in Northern Ireland to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Florida teachers want access to a vaccine as soon as it becomes available. [ LIAM MCBURNEY | AP ]

Rumors circulated that former Volusia superintendent Tom Russell, now a Flagler County principal, died of COVID-19. They’re not true, Flagler Live reports.

More school districts are shortening quarantine restrictions. Duval County is among the latest to adopt the new CDC guidelines, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Sarasota County schools also jumped on board, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The federal government says several states including Florida aren’t spending their CARES Act money. It’s a misleading statement, Chalkbeat reports.

‘I don’t think he’s interested in Black people.’ That’s the opinion the chairman of Florida’s Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys has of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Phoenix reports. The council was formed to seek ways to overcome high school dropout rates and other negative conditions affecting Black males in the state.

The Lee County school district declined to recognize LGBTQ History Month in October. It’s slated to reconsider the resolution for 2021, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

It’s not her money. A Lee County teacher was fired after using drama club funds to pay her personal bills, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

The clock is ticking for the Manatee County School Board to consider renewing its superintendent’s contract. Board members delayed discussion this week to provide more time for review and input, the Bradenton Herald reports.

From the court docket ... Lawyers for the Broward County school district are demanding copies of social media posts by families of victims in the Parkland school shooting be submitted in the families’ case alleging negligence by the district, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

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

Before you go ... Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier in the 1940s, paving the way for a space age that made a lasting impact on Florida. Here’s some historical footage from that event, in memory of the man who passed away this week at age 97.