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Coronavirus takes its toll on Florida school testing, events

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Ninth-graders at Land O'Lakes High wait to take Florida Standards Assessments in March 2015. In 2021, parents have concerns about sending their children to schools for in-person testing during the pandemic.  [Pasco County School District photo]
Ninth-graders at Land O'Lakes High wait to take Florida Standards Assessments in March 2015. In 2021, parents have concerns about sending their children to schools for in-person testing during the pandemic. [Pasco County School District photo]
Published Feb. 15

Parents across Florida have begun receiving calls and emails from their children’s schools, alerting them that state standardized tests are fast approaching. And they’ll take place in person only. For families that have stuck to remote learning through the pandemic’s twists and turns, that news is posing a dilemma. Many have started looking for alternatives to ensure their children continue to advance academically without becoming exposed to the virus. Read on for that and more Florida education news.

The opt-out option is starting to look more viable to some parents. School officials raised concerns they might not meet testing levels required by the state and federal governments.

The results could impact teacher evaluations and pay. St. Lucie County educators called on the state to remove the high stakes associated with the results, WPTV reports.

Schools have amply shown the difficulties of teaching and learning this year. Orange County superintendent Barbara Jenkins noted that everyone is exhausted from the effort in an interview with NPR. • A teacher and students in an Orange County eighth-grade science class shared their experiences with Spectrum 13. • Learning losses have been significant enough that the Orange district has expanded its summer offerings to help get students back on track, WKMG reports.

A consensus is growing that attending classes face to face is safe. The CDC issued new guidelines that essentially follow protocols already in place in Florida, the Miami Herald reports. • Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran encouraged Florida schools to “stay the course” in their operations, WKMG reports. • Gov. Ron DeSantis declared that Florida “led on education” and the fact that schools remain closed across the country is a “national disgrace,” Florida Politics reports.

The goal is to get children back into school. If the numbers don’t rebound after a sharp decrease in enrollment, Florida House leaders said that schools could see a resulting decrease in funding, the News Service of Florida reports. The state held districts financially harmless for differences between projected and actual enrollment this year. • House Speaker Chris Sprowls urged districts to look for the “missing” students, Florida Politics reports. More from the Orlando Sentinel.

This screenshot, showing Hillsborough schools superintendent Addison Davis without a mask at a Super Bowl celebration, has spread widely on social media. Davis says he took his mask off only briefly, and regrets doing so.
This screenshot, showing Hillsborough schools superintendent Addison Davis without a mask at a Super Bowl celebration, has spread widely on social media. Davis says he took his mask off only briefly, and regrets doing so. [ Facebook ]

The use of masks remains a mainstay of the response — and a flashpoint for arguments. Hillsborough County superintendent Addison Davis urged district students and families to wear masks and stay safe during Super Bowl activities, so they wouldn’t bring the virus back to school. Then he was spotted partying maskless during the celebrations. • Some Sarasota County parents sued over their district’s mask mandate. They now have dropped the case, the Herald-Tribune reports. • A new “pro-liberty” group amped up its fight against masks in Brevard County schools, while students complained about the district’s ban on indoor musical performances, Florida Today reports. Here’s more on “Moms for Liberty” from Space Coast Daily.

Meanwhile, everyone waits for details about spring activities. Seminole County high schools released preliminary graduation plans, but advised details are subject to change, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Collier County high schools announced it’s a top priority not to have virtual graduations this year, the Naples Daily News reports.

Even Valentine’s Day has been affected. At one Lake County school, cards and candy were quarantined before distribution by gloved and masked staff members, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Some students have more basic needs. With food insecurity up during the pandemic, a Duval County elementary counselor created a food bank for his students, WJXT reports.

In other school news

Save our school. A Putnam County community is fighting a plan to close its elementary school as part of a districtwide revitalization plan, WUFT reports.

An Alachua County elementary principal has been recommended for firing. She’s accused of inappropriate activity including sharing nude photos, which she denies, the Gainesville Sun reports.

The Charlotte County School Board is reexamining its sex harassment and discrimination policies. Officials remain divided over how to handle anonymous complaints, the Charlotte Sun reports.

She’s moving on. The principal of Volusia County’s virtual school abruptly resigned, citing health and happiness reasons, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

The Manatee County school district took over a struggling charter school a year ago. It’s still trying to figure out the school’s long-term fate, the Bradenton Herald reports.

The Duval County school district scheduled suicide prevention activities for “You Matter Month.” Students at six schools protested, saying the effort interfered with and attempted to overshadow Black History Month, WTLV reports. The district announced changes as a result, WJXT reports.

What’s on tap in Tallahassee? House Education chairman Rep. Chris Latvala listed early literacy and school choice among his session priorities, Florida Politics reports. • Three years after the Parkland school shooting, Florida lawmakers continue to seek ways to improve school security, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

From the police blotter ... A Polk County teacher was arrested on accusations of physically fighting two students after a high school basketball game, WFLA reports. • A Polk County teacher was arrested on her third DUI charge, WKMG reports. • A Lake County school resource officer was removed from her post, related to a recent arrest, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • A 10-year-old Citrus County student was arrested for allegedly bringing a machete to school, the Citrus County Chronicle reports. • A Highlands County high school teacher was arrested on accusations of having sex with a minor student, WTSP reports.

Before you go ... The Super Bowl is over, having made its mark on the Tampa Bay area and Florida. One way that shouldn’t get lost is the support for flag football as a growing sport for high school girls. Don’t miss this cool Nike ad featuring the flag teams from Hillsborough’s Robinson and Alonso high schools.