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To test or not to test? That’s the question for Florida schools coping with omicron

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
A Motorist waits in line to be tested for COVID-19 at a new Hillsborough County testing site on Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022.
A Motorist waits in line to be tested for COVID-19 at a new Hillsborough County testing site on Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jan. 13

The big story: Schools in Florida and across the nation continue to struggle to operate, as growing numbers of students and staff receive positive coronavirus test results.

Districts have seen case counts in record numbers, including Brevard County, as Florida Today reports. Cases doubled in at least one Treasure Coast county, TC Palm reports. The St. Johns County school system began canceling events and activities as a precautionary measure as its numbers began to climb again, the St. Augustine Record reports.

The schools relying upon virus testing to help them continue their in-person efforts have found the tests to be troublesome, though. The Broward County district, for instance, received expired tests for their teachers, one of many problems nationwide, the NY Times reports.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended the way that Florida came to have so many expired test kits. This week, the federal government offered a reprieve.

It told the state it could extend the use of those tests by three months. Meanwhile, the federal government also announced it would distribute 10 million tests per month to schools across the nation, NPR reports. School leaders in north Florida said they hoped the efforts would help slow the spread among their students and staff members, WJXT reports.

Not every expert favors regular testing as a way to slow the virus, though, NPR reports.

Tallahassee action

A state lawmaker wants an investigation of the Department of Education’s relationship with turnaround efforts in Jefferson County schools. State Rep. Alison Tant, D-Tallahassee, has asked the Department of State’s inspector general to look into the situation, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

The education department found itself on the receiving end of criticism over a tweet on Wednesday. As Gov. Ron DeSantis pushes for teacher bonuses and raises this year, the department stated that the governor got extra money for “every hardworking public school teacher and principal” last year, too. Educators were quick to point out that “every doesn’t mean every” in this particular instance. Check out the replies.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Early Learning and Elementary Education subcommittee is scheduled to consider three bills, including one on the restraint and seclusion of students, when it sits at 9 a.m. • The House Secondary Education subcommittee meets at 2 p.m., where it will discuss bills relating to African-American history and lessons about communism. • The House Education Committee is to discuss literacy and civics initiatives when it convenes at 4:30 p.m.

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Money matters

A Tampa private school is getting a new $2 million athletic fieldhouse. A 2017 Tampa Catholic alumnus who now plays for the New York Knicks said the school inspired him to donate the amount needed for the project.

Let’s make a deal. Polk County teachers will get retroactive raises as the district approved a new contract in a special meeting, the Ledger reports.

Florida schools are laying the groundwork to receive another round of federal stimulus funds. Citrus County district leaders said they are examining which past programs were successful as they determine how to allocate $34.2 million, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Superintendent searches

The Miami-Dade County School Board gave people seven days to apply for its superintendent vacancy. Sixteen candidates applied to lead the nation’s fourth largest district, including state education chancellor Jacob Oliva, the Miami Herald reports. See the full list here. More from WSVN.

Lee County has five finalists for its top job. None currently work in Florida, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Applications for Broward County’s superintendent post were due 10 days ago. The candidate list remains a mystery, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

In other news

A Brevard County School Board member sought a restraining order against state Rep. Randy Fine. A county judge dismissed the request, Florida Today reports.

The Orange County School Board was supposed to consider new coronavirus protocols for teachers. Union leaders accused the district of ignoring employees’ safety needs, WKMG reports.

Indian River County school leaders want to stop vaping on the campuses. Students at one high school have joined the effort, WPTV reports.

Duval County’s student population is 43 percent Black, but just 3 percent of teachers are Black males. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is devising a plan to improve the ratio, WTLV reports.

From the court docket ... A group of Florida school districts have sued a consulting company they contend “turbocharged” opioid sales, which they argue harmed children and increased education costs, the News Service of Florida reports.

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

Before you go ... Nature is amazing. Check out this cool video about the world’s biggest crab migration, which sees millions of the crustaceans make their way to the sea in unison.

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