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COVID spread sparks call for return to contact tracing in schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Pasco County schools have worked to operate normally in the face of the coronavirus. Some students have called for a return to more contact tracing as virus cases rise.
Pasco County schools have worked to operate normally in the face of the coronavirus. Some students have called for a return to more contact tracing as virus cases rise. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2021) ]
Published Jan. 20

The big story: As the pandemic has progressed, school district protocols dealing with the coronavirus have seen some changes. One of the biggest shifts has come in the area of contact tracing and quarantining.

Faced with state restrictions regarding when students and staff must remain home, many districts have backed away from the detailed contact tracing and case reporting that marked the first year of the virus spread. The Brevard County school district announced this week it would end contact tracing because of a lack of resources, WESH reports. With numbers quickly rising due to the contagious omicron variant, though, that move is facing a backlash.

A group of Pasco County students raised concerns this week that the lack of information has created chaos and confusion for them and their teachers. Their education is at risk, they told the School Board. What do they want? Read the story here.

How extensive is the virus these days? Duval County schools reported more cases in the past two weeks than in the first two months of classes, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Marion County schools recorded a record-high seven day count, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • Indian River County schools perform a daily juggling act to make sure all classes are covered when teachers call in sick, WPTV reports. • The Manatee County school district postponed many extracurricular activities, including performing arts but excluding sports, as its positivity rate rose, WFLA reports.

Mask issues persist. The Palm Beach County School Board reimposed a mask mandate at its meetings, WPTV reports. • No Florida doctors have faced penalties for inappropriately issuing mask opt-out forms earlier in the school year, Scripps reports.

Tallahassee action

The State Board of Education held a conference call on Wednesday to consider amendments to its budget proposal. It lasted less than six minutes, with no questions or comments about the proposals to sync the board’s spending plan with the governor’s. You can listen here, and review the documents here.

A proposal to shield university president search information from the public advanced in the state House. It was amended to shorten the time during which the records would remain private, Florida Politics reports.

A bill to clarify the charter school renewal process sailed through its second House committee. The measure arose after the Hillsborough County school district attempted to cancel some charters with little notice over the summer, Florida Politics reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Education and Employment Committee meets at 9 a.m., when it’s scheduled to consider three bills including a measure to expand upon parental rights in schools. The committee also will review a proposal to eliminate school board member salaries, the News Service of Florida reports.

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Money matters

The Santa Rosa County school district wanted to increase its impact fees. A county judge invalidated the action, finding deficiencies with the district’s data justifying the higher amount, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

The Alachua County School Board approved a plan for $61.5 million in requested federal stimulus money. Some residents called for added transparency in how the money will be spent, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Escambia County veteran teachers are upset with the district’s raise offer. They rejected a $200 raise proposal, saying it didn’t value their work, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

In other news

With bus rides spotty, some Okaloosa County families have turned to Uber to take their kids home from school. They’re finding that Uber has a policy against picking up unaccompanied minors, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Another Florida school district needs a new superintendent. St. Lucie County schools chief Wayne Gent announced he would retire at the end of June, TC Palm reports.

The Palm Beach County school district is getting a new police chief. The superintendent recommended an interim leader during a national search for a permanent replacement, the Palm Beach Post reports.

School board races are heating up. A pastor who serves on the Volusia County Commission and has been a pandemic denier has announced his bid to unseat a first-term School Board member, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

From the police blotter ... A 16-year-old Seminole County student was arrested as a suspect in a school shooting of an 18-year-old student, WFTV reports. Police called the situation an isolated dispute. Other students at the school said campus shootings shouldn’t feel so normal, WKMG reports.

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

Before you go ... Dolly Parton turned 76. Mark the occasion with a hot new remix of Jolene certain to draw new fans a quarter of her age.

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