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On school bonuses, masks, meals and more, all eyes on DeSantis

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Governor Ron DeSantis shakes hands with a teacher as he hands her a bonus check for $1000 during a visit to Lakewood Elementary School, which was recently graded as an A school, up from an F in a couple of years, Wednesday, August 11, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
Governor Ron DeSantis shakes hands with a teacher as he hands her a bonus check for $1000 during a visit to Lakewood Elementary School, which was recently graded as an A school, up from an F in a couple of years, Wednesday, August 11, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Sep. 29
Updated Sep. 29

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spent a lot of time touting his initiatives affecting the state’s public schools, teachers and students. Some of them haven’t worked out exactly as planned. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

DeSantis convinced lawmakers to provide $1,000 bonuses for classroom teachers last year. At least 50 found the checks bounced when they made the deposits. The state blamed the bank.

DeSantis wanted to financially penalize school boards that went against his ban on strict mask mandates. The Biden Administration covered the withheld money for the Alachua and Broward school boards with a new grant program. • The State Board of Education has called a special meeting for Oct. 7 to consider the the actions of the districts defying the governor’s directives, the Alachua Chronicle reports. • The Duval County School Board is exploring how to fight the state’s attempts to control school district operations, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The governor also fought efforts to accept federal funds to keep children fed while schools are closed. He ultimately relented and applied for the money, which was approved late Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Coronavirus concerns

Florida’s new school pandemic protocols have an upside and a downside. They came as many areas are seeing case counts decrease. Such was the case in Brevard County, Florida Today reports. But some medical experts warned Polk County school district leaders that the changes on quarantining could yield negative effects, the Ledger reports.

The Sarasota County school district returned to a mask-optional policy for students. It cited a decrease in case positivity in the county, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Schools serving many of Duval County’s poorest children saw the biggest declines in student test scores last spring. Educators said absenteeism during the pandemic played a critical factor, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Where have all the students gone? South Florida teachers spent part of the weekend visiting homes where children who haven’t returned to classes were known to have lived, WTVJ reports.

School safety

It’s been more than three years since the school shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Many schools including in Broward County have yet to implement measures aimed at making campuses safer, WPLG reports. More from Florida Politics.

Five Leon County students have been arrested for gun incidents at school this year. That’s more than double the amount from all last year, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Orange County residents will go through metal detectors to enter School Board meetings. It’s one of several new district efforts to keep the meetings civil and safe, WKMG reports.

The threats continue. Two more Alachua County schools received threats of violence, continuing a trend that resumed this fall, the Gainesville Sun reports.• A 12-year-old girl was arrested for threatening a Collier County school, WINK reports.

A Bay County high school erupted into a riot in the courtyard. The school went into lockdown, and 16 students were arrested, WMBB reports.

More school news

The University of South Florida wants entry into the exclusive American Association of Universities. The Board of Governors is asking for $50 million to help the school gain access to the group.

Duke Energy is installing a solar canopy at John Hopkins Middle in St. Petersburg. It’s part of a plan to provide power to the site, which serves as a evacuation center, if the electricity goes out. It also will become part of the school’s curriculum.

Some Polk County high school students didn’t like new rules imposed by their principal. Fifteen were arrested during a protest where they called for the principal’s removal, the Ledger reports. A teacher at the school has been whipping up opposition to the school leader, the Ledger reports.

The Lee County school district is seeking a new superintendent. Officials have asked the public for ideas about what type of person to look for, before placing a national ad, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

The Palm Beach County school district still needs bus drivers. Parents have raised safety concerns as their children wait for buses, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Are families taking advantage of Florida’s expanded voucher programs? Private schools in southwest Florida have seen an increase in applications since they took effect, WEAR reports.

Some state lawmakers want to extend the time parents have to determine if their children have special educational needs. They seek to match federal guidelines allowing assessment through age 9 instead of the state’s current age 5, Florida Politics reports.

A Wall Street Journal article noted a decline in men attending college. Gov. DeSantis called the trend “a good sign,” Florida Politics reports.

Before you go ... Have you seen this video of an Australian man’s tribute to his aunt, whose funeral he could not attend?

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