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Florida schools must stay open, omicron or not, DeSantis says

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Florida Surgeon Gen. Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, left, speaks at a news conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Florida Surgeon Gen. Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, left, speaks at a news conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published Jan. 4

The big story: No surprise, it remains the return to Florida schools after winter break, with a rise in positive coronavirus caseloads. Gov. Ron DeSantis took to the airwaves Monday to declare that public schools must remain open for in-person learning, regardless of the numbers of students and teachers staying home, as the Sun-Sentinel reports. Tampa Bay area school leaders conformed to that approach, saying they’d be following the state laws in dealing with the omicron variant. Many other districts took similar stances, including those along the Treasure Coast, TC Palm reports.

Some experts have suggested the nation could be headed toward the end of the pandemic cycle, as the FDA approved another round of boosters for children ages 12-15, as the Associated Press reports. DeSantis repeated his push for monclonal antibody treatments, while state surgeon general Joseph Ladapo called for a change in approach to virus testing, as WFOR reports. Lines for testing grew so long at one Lee County site that they caused school bus delays, WINK reports.

Meanwhile, the debate over masks in schools continued. A group of parents whose children have special needs refiled an amended version of their federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on universal school mask mandates, WJXT reports. The complainants have contended that the state position violates their children’s right to a free public education in the least restrictive environment. • The Marion County School Board scheduled a meeting to consider reinstating a student mask mandate with an opt-out provision, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • And the Orange County school district announced all adults must wear masks in schools through January, WKMG reports.

In other school news

Florida school board meetings have become the focal point of culture wars. The divide has deepened in Brevard County, where a group of parents has emerged to counter the conservative message of Moms for Liberty, which got its start in their community, Florida Today reports.

Safety first. The Broward County school district is turning to metal detectors as a way to combat a rise in school violence, threats and weapons on campus, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Getting there is half the battle. The Duval County school district has partnered with local public transit to provide free bus rides to middle and high school students, the Florida Times-Union reports. Private and charter schools also are included in the pilot program, which aims to help ease the crunch created by a school bus driver shortage. • The Pinellas County school district began a similar service this month for its students.

They paid fees for expected services. A Miami-Dade County circuit judge allowed a group of Florida International University students to continue their class action lawsuit that seeks a refund of the money they paid the school in 2020, when the pandemic closed the campus, the News Service of Florida reports. • Gov. DeSantis argued that college and university students should get tuition refunds when forced to learn online as part of their school’s pandemic response, Florida Politics reports.

About that academic freedom lawsuit ... A federal judge refused to dismiss a case brought by three University of Florida professors challenging their school’s policy on blocking them from testifying in cases against the state, the News Service of Florida reports.

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Before you go ... Just how important is reading? This little guy gets it.

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