Florida schools can’t find enough substitute teachers as quarantines rise

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Students make their way to the entrance at Dunedin Highland Middle School during first day of school on Wednesday, Aug, 11, 2021. Officials have raised concerns that they can't find enough substitute teachers to cover classes when the regular instructors are out.
Students make their way to the entrance at Dunedin Highland Middle School during first day of school on Wednesday, Aug, 11, 2021. Officials have raised concerns that they can't find enough substitute teachers to cover classes when the regular instructors are out. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sept. 2, 2021

The coronavirus is affecting Florida schools in more ways than just masks. Finding people to work — especially when staffers are quarantined — is proving problematic. As Hernando County schools superintendent John Stratton warned this week, “Every day we’re a few people away from a school not being able to teach your kids.” Read on for the latest on this story and more Florida education news, including school districts’ responses to the Department of Education’s threat over their masking rules.

Pinellas County schools are low on substitute teachers. They’ve asked district-level administrators with teaching certification to step in.

It’s a growing problem statewide. Also struggling to find subs, the Okaloosa and Walton school districts increased the pay rates for those positions, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Schools continued to close their doors to in-person learning because of virus spread. A Duval County high school will offer online instruction until Sept. 9, the Florida Times-Union reports. The Duval district shuts schools once 20 percent of the staff and student population is impacted by the virus.

Doctors like this one aren’t helping. The Bay County school district is calling attention to a local doctor who encouraged families to lie about their children’s health to avoid quarantine, the Panama City News Herald reports.

Mask mandates

The DeSantis administration continued to pressure school boards to get rid of universal mask mandates. The governor again defended steps to hold back funding equal to board member pay, Florida Phoenix reports. • Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office issued a legal opinion that appeared to back the governor, though some critics took issue with the finding.

School districts began responding to the Department of Education’s demand that they drop their mandatory mask policies or face sanctions. The Hillsborough County school district argued that its actions are legal and follow the Health Department rules, state laws and the recent ruling by Leon County Judge John Cooper. That ruling had yet to be formally filed in writing. • The Palm Beach and Miami-Dade school districts also took issue with the department’s warnings, using similar arguments, the Sun-Sentinel reports. More from the Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post, Florida Times-Union, Orlando Sentinel.

Things are getting dicey. A Sarasota County school went into lockdown after a parent upset about the mask mandate threatened a school official, WFLA reports. The parent later apologized, WFLA reports. • Fights broke out outside the Lee County school district headquarters after the school board announced its mask mandate, WBBH reports. • Anti-mask protesters gathered outside the home of a Brevard County School Board member who pushed for the district’s new mask mandate, Florida Today reports. She gave them pizza.

People say they’re following the data and science. A Brevard County hospital official accused a School Board member who opposed the district’s new mandate of misrepresenting the hospital’s COVID reports, Florida Today reports.

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It’s not just Florida. Oklahoma’s rule banning school mask mandates is on hold after a judge’s ruling, Oklahoma Watch reports.

Other school news

Getting there is half the battle. The Escambia County school district is considering construction of an elevated walkway to help children cross a busy road between their neighborhood and their school, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Florida has a nurse shortage. The state reopened a center at the University of South Florida to identify and address the potential need.

Florida has no shortage of elite high school football teams. One of them, IMG Academy, showed up to play against a school from Ohio for ESPN, and quickly trounced the challenger. Now officials are investigating whether Bishop Sycamore even exists, Yahoo News reports. More from the Columbus Dispatch.

From the police blotter ... Martin County law enforcement is investigating a threat of a mass school shooting found crumpled next to a teacher’s desk, WPTV reports. • A Broward County charter school student was detained on allegations of making a threat against the school, WPLG reports.

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

Before you go ... There’s a new show streaming on Hulu starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. You just might like it.

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