Florida schools fill up as they combat coronavirus, teacher concerns

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Second graders practice social distancing while lining up for lunch in November at Innovations Preparatory Academy in Wesley Chapel. Schools continue to struggle with the details of the coronavirus.
Second graders practice social distancing while lining up for lunch in November at Innovations Preparatory Academy in Wesley Chapel. Schools continue to struggle with the details of the coronavirus. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 25, 2021

The numbers of coronavirus cases affecting schools has swung to record highs in some places, while in others the incidents are waning. The scenario has led to situations where students might be ready to return to classrooms, while teachers are less so. It’s led to some heated disagreements. Read on for the latest on this and other Florida education news.

Florida universities will receive a second round of federal funds to help them cope with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. How much is your school getting?

The virus continues to impact schools. The growth has leveled off, but cases remain higher than in the fall. • Orange County schools recorded their highest single day number of cases, WESH reports. • Volusia County district officials have raised concerns about the rising numbers since classes resumed, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • Polk County schools have seen a spike in January, the Ledger reports.

Maybe that’s why some families remain reluctant to send their kids back. Many Broward parents say their children are safer at home, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

That’s certainly not the situation for everyone, though. The numbers of students taking virtual classes is declining in several central Florida counties, WFTS reports.

After all, some schools are seeing improvement. Such is the case for three Alachua County high schools that had experienced the district’s highest numbers, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Vaccines are arriving. The Collier County school district is the latest to get doses for its older employees, the Naples Daily News reports.

The ‘year of the teacher’

Florida teachers are supposed to get raises this year. Alachua County educators told their school board that they’re frustrated not to have an agreement yet, WGFL reports.

Not that all contract agreements are great. Nassau County teachers overwhelmingly rejected their district’s offer, saying veteran instructors deserved a better deal, WJXT reports.

Some are just waiting. Orange County teachers’ raises were delayed by two weeks as the state took its time to review pay plans for two charter schools, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Through it all, schools strive to recognize excellence. The Bay County school district named its 2021 Teacher of the Year over the weekend, the Panama City News Herald reports. • The Marion County school district announced its Golden Apple award on Friday, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • The Volusia and Flagler county districts scaled back their celebrations because of the pandemic, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Volusia’s winner was an elementary school art teacher, the News-Journal reports.

They’re all about the kids. Sarasota County’s teacher of the year said teaching kindergarten is the ‘only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,’ the Herald-Tribune reports.

But teachers also face criticism from some corners for standing in the way of fully reopening schools. In Florida and across the nation, teachers and unions have raised continued concerns about the safety, USA Today reports.

Other news

‘Hard times’ are ahead. The chairman of the Florida Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee said lawmakers hope to ‘properly’ fund K-12 education, while higher education could see some ‘adjustments,’ WUWF reports.

Changing a school’s name isn’t always easy. The Duval County school district has encountered complications as it moves to rebrand nine schools named after controversial historical figures, WJXT reports.

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Such moves draw praise and criticism. That’s what one Brevard County community has found after a committee unanimously moved to drop the local high school’s “Indian” mascot, Florida Today reports.

Parents have questions. The Lake County school district has launched a new online system to help get them answered more quickly, the Daily Commercial reports.

And the first day of school is ... Palm Beach County residents seem to find problems with the school calendar each year, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Time to retire. Sarasota County’s longtime chief academic officer announced her departure, a year after she initially planned to go. She remained longer to help the district deal with transition and pandemic, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Before you go ... Here’s a cool class if ever there was one. Eckerd College students are studying American history and culture through the lens of Dolly Parton’s world. Columnist Stephanie Hayes provides the details. If you’re intrigued, check out the 2019 nine-part podcast Dolly Parton’s America that the course is based on. And be sure to enjoy Dolly’s live recording of the classic “I Will Always Love You.”