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Sick leave concerns mount as school coronavirus cases rise

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
In this image from a Pinellas County Schools video, a worker cleans a classroom. Teachers have raised concerns about how the district will handle sick leave if they are unable to work because of the coronavirus.
In this image from a Pinellas County Schools video, a worker cleans a classroom. Teachers have raised concerns about how the district will handle sick leave if they are unable to work because of the coronavirus. [ Pinellas County Schools ]
Published Jan. 6, 2021

Coronavirus cases spiked over winter break -- a result of family activities, according to some experts. But now those cases are affecting schools, causing self-isolation and quarantines to prevent further exposures and infections. Taking time off can cost students learning opportunities. District employees are hoping it won’t cost them financially, now that federal sick time guarantees have ended. Districts are working on that issue. Read on for the latest on that and other Florida education news.

Federal sick leave protection for coronavirus cases expired Dec. 31. Pinellas County teachers want to be sure they aren’t held financially responsible if quarantined from work. * The Brevard County school district agreed to extend the sick leave provisions for its employees, Florida Today reports.

Getting vaccinated would make them feel more comfortable. Tampa Bay area teachers said they’re frustrated the governor won’t place a higher priority on getting shots for the profession, Bay News 9 reports. * The Brevard County teachers union joined a growing call to add educators to the earlier rounds of inoculations, Florida Today reports.

Virus case numbers continue to spike. In Pinellas County, schools reported 500 new cases from the winter break. * Polk County schools won’t place restrictions on students returning to in-person classes, the Ledger reports. * The positivity rate in Miami-Dade County hovered around 10 percent as schools reopened, the Miami Herald reports. That’s higher than the level set by district leaders for keeping campuses open. * As positive cases rose in Leon County schools, district officials stressed that no one had been in schools and the spread occurred during vacations with families, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. * A new study from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Harvard University shows that cases in Florida rose after the reopening of schools in September, EurekAlert reports.

Still, many are being told to come back to classrooms. Broward County teachers with underlying medical conditions who have led virtual classes said they’re fearful of following their district’s requirement to return, the Sun-Sentinel reports. * Bay County parents have raised concerns that their district ended their children’s live-remote classes, WMBB reports.

A sign encourages social distancing at Innovations Preparatory Academy in Wesley Chapel. Schools across Florida are encouraging this mitigation strategy and others as they reopen for second semester with more students returning for in-person learning.
A sign encourages social distancing at Innovations Preparatory Academy in Wesley Chapel. Schools across Florida are encouraging this mitigation strategy and others as they reopen for second semester with more students returning for in-person learning. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Some Miami-Dade high school students started an art project. The pandemic cut it short, WLRN reports.

Former DeSantis spokesman Fred Piccolo has landed a job in the Department of Education. He’ll oversee projects in the colleges division, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Eat up. All Marion County school students will receive free lunch in the new year, WKMG reports.

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Lee County school officials want more preschoolers prepared in district programs. The district has begun expanding its prekindergarten options, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Duval County teachers reached a contract agreement with their district. Veteran educators expressed dissatisfaction about the lack of raises for them, while younger colleagues get pay hikes, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The Alachua County school district is preparing to redraw attendance zones. It’s asked for public input on the options, the Gainesville Sun reports.

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Before you go ... This USF graduate worked with animals for years, and discovered a need to get more people to care. Now she’s a high school biology teacher in Volusia County. Bet her class is interesting.