Florida school grades are coming, starting in Pinellas County

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Mikayla Juby, 20 (center) hugs her brother Mateo Penaranda, 11, (right) after he and his brother, Xavier Penaranda, 9, (not pictured), received their award for making the honor roll at Lakewood Elementary in April. Lakewood was one of the lowest performing schools in the state of Florida. Now it's earned an A from the state.
Mikayla Juby, 20 (center) hugs her brother Mateo Penaranda, 11, (right) after he and his brother, Xavier Penaranda, 9, (not pictured), received their award for making the honor roll at Lakewood Elementary in April. Lakewood was one of the lowest performing schools in the state of Florida. Now it's earned an A from the state. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
Published Aug. 12, 2021

Trust them or disdain them, state A-F grades have become a permanent part of Florida’s education landscape. And they’ve begun to come out for the schools that requested them for 2021 — primarily those that had something to gain by their positive outcomes. One long struggling Pinellas County school got the news it had worked its way off the state’s low performing list as students returned for the first day of classes. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

Lakewood Elementary in south St. Petersburg long lingered on Florida’s bottom rungs for state test results. Its improvement “is not a fluke,” superintendent Mike Grego said.

Pinellas County had its first day of classes, a day later than other area districts. Students and educators welcomed the return to full in-person courses, taking the latest set of coronavirus protocols in stride. • More on back to school in Florida from TC Palm, Florida Times-Union, Pensacola News-Journal.

Coronavirus concerns

Catholic schools in Florida are changing their tune about masks. The Diocese of St. Petersburg told parents masks would be mandated at the schools, with an opt-out clause, the day after classes began. • The Diocese of St. Augustine issued a mask mandate for its schools, too, WJXT reports.

Mask opt outs have some appeal. About 12 percent of Lee County students submitted a form, Florida Politics reports. • The Monroe County school district included an opt out clause in its new mask requirement, WTVJ reports.

Two Brevard County School Board members wanted to mandate masks without an opt out. Their three colleagues didn’t go along, Florida Today reports.

Some schools are targeting adults with their mask policies. A Palm Beach County private preschool mandated masks for all employees. Half quit, WPTV reports. • The Volusia County school district announced all adults must wear masks in schools, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

The Broward County School Board received a funding threat letter from the state over its mask rule. The district didn’t show signs of backing down, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The Alachua County school district held firm, too, while the Leon district reversed course, the News Service of Florida reports.

The Miami-Dade County school district is one of a few to not yet decide on masks. Some parents and students rallied outside district headquarters in favor of a mask mandate, WPLG reports. • A heated battle over masks continues in St. Johns County, too, the St. Augustine Record reports.

As officials ponder their next move, facing a threat of lost funds for their salaries, one businessman has made an offer. Entrepreneur Andrew Davies set aside $500,000 in a trust fund to help cover any state cuts, WTXL reports.

Coronavirus cases keep coming. Orange County schools reported 60 student and 149 employee cases on the first day of classes, WKMG reports. One Orange County high school’s football program canceled its first game because of the virus, WKMG reports. • Letters went home from at least four Palm Beach County schools alerting parents to virus cases on campus, the Palm Beach Post reports. • One Bay County school did not open as planned because of a high number of student and staff quarantines, the Panama City News Herald reports.

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Subscribe to our free Gradebook newsletter

We’ll break down the local and state education developments you need to know every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Want a state voucher because of your school’s mask rules? In Alachua County, private school slots are hard to come by, WCJB reports. More from the Gainesville Sun.

Teacher issues

Nearly 100 Duval County teachers called out for the first day of school. Their absence strained a school system already struggling to fill all vacancies, WJXT reports.

Florida has a critical teacher shortage. In addition to virus concerns, educators are unhappy with their low pay and a lack of respect they get from some quarters, WMFE reports.

Gov. DeSantis visited schools to give some teachers $1,000 checks. He did so despite the federal government’s stance that using stimulus funds for that purpose is not appropriate, Florida Politics reports. The money for the checks, now referred to as disaster relief rather than bonuses, comes from the federal funding package that all Republicans in Congress opposed.

Other school news

Volusia County has a new high school career academy. It’s for HVAC installation, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Florida school nurses expect a busy year. It’s not just the coronavirus that will keep them occupied, WFTS reports.

Volusia County district officials are projecting a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. Federal stimulus money and tax revenue are unlikely to cover the gap, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

The Key West High football team won’t be playing its home games at home. Its stadium has been condemned, the Keys Weekly reports.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... Let’s stick with the back to school song theme a bit longer. Who doesn’t think of this Pink Floyd classic at least once in a while when thinking about school?

• • •

Sign up for the Gradebook newsletter!

Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.