Kids head back to class this week. Schools still need more teachers.

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
The Hillsborough County Public Schools Back to School Press Conference was held at the Dorothy C. York Innovation Academy PreK-8 on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 at Apollo Beach. The magnet school will open for the first time later this month.
The Hillsborough County Public Schools Back to School Press Conference was held at the Dorothy C. York Innovation Academy PreK-8 on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 at Apollo Beach. The magnet school will open for the first time later this month. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
Published Aug. 8, 2022

The big story: Schools throughout the Tampa Bay region and across Florida begin welcoming students back to their classrooms on Wednesday.

They have new programs to offer, different teaching approaches to try, and plenty of revised rules to implement.

The big question remains: Will they have enough bus drivers to get the children to campus, and enough teachers and aides to serve them once there?

The answers — and the concern levels — vary from district to district.

The Okeechobee County school district is one of several in Florida to look outside the country for teaching candidates, WPEC reports. The Marion County teachers is targeting retired teachers to return to the classrooms, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Florida’s new laws on race, gender and diversity are leading some educators to reconsider the profession, WFSU reports. Sarasota County teachers said they’re trying to remain focused on education, despite all the challenges, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The Pasco County school district is opening a transportation call center for parents to get information about their children’s bus routes, which the district has revamped amid a driver shortage.

In Lake County, bus drivers and other support staff won a tentative agreement for 6% raises, WKMG reports. The district continues to face staffing shortages, the Daily Commercial reports.

With the first day looming, superintendents across the state talked about their preparations. Those included Miami-Dade (WPLG), Orange (WKMG) and Lee (WBBH), each of which have new leaders for the new year.

Hot topics

Book challenges: The Collier County school district has added warning labels to several books in its libraries, NBC reports. The titles include classics, as well as materials relating to race and gender issues. Collier is the home base for the conservative Florida Citizens Alliance, which has been pushing to ban certain books for years.

Coronavirus concerns: A new CDC analysis says the Tampa Bay area remains at high risk for COVID-19, and recommends masks indoors — something school districts are not doing. • Collier County schools are telling families that quarantine is not required for exposure to someone with the illness, the Naples Daily News reports.

Intellectual freedom: A survey of University of Florida faculty indicates low morale, strong worries about the school’s direction and a willingness to leave for other institutions of higher education.

School security: Okaloosa County school resource officers trained not to hesitate in the event of an active shooter incident, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

School board politics: Gov. Ron DeSantis has begun putting money behind his school board endorsements, with his political action committee sending mailers out for several of his choices across the state, Florida Politics reports.

Sex education: A Miami-Dade County School Board member’s experience as a teen parent informed his policy decisions on the topic, WLRN reports.

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STEM lessons: Nine Okaloosa County schools will launch new courses in artificial intelligence, WKRG reports.

Tax referendums: The Hernando County School Board will hold a special meeting Tuesday to contemplate its next steps after a judge tossed out the board’s legal effort to force the County Commission to place a district tax referendum on the November ballot. The board also has asked the commission to meet jointly to discuss the situation. • Supporters of the Duval County school district’s property tax ballot initiative say the measure is critical to help attract and retain teachers, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Before you go ... Some “Stranger Things” fans say the villain Vecna is one of the scariest characters they’ve seen. But what’s it like when his voice provides some unexpected words? Like lines from “Notting Hill” and verses from Lizzo? Check out Jamie Campbell Bower’s interview with Jimmy Fallon. (If you’re not interested in the chatter, jump ahead to the 5:15 mark for the fun.)

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