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Florida school district works to integrate its growing Hispanic population

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Araseli Martinez-Pena, in center, a Hillsborough County Public Schools coordinator of equity and inclusion, talks with a family at a temporary Immigrant School Registration and Welcome Center located at Leto Adult Center, 7010 N. Manhattan Ave, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022 in Tampa.
Araseli Martinez-Pena, in center, a Hillsborough County Public Schools coordinator of equity and inclusion, talks with a family at a temporary Immigrant School Registration and Welcome Center located at Leto Adult Center, 7010 N. Manhattan Ave, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 12

The big story: Tampa Bay area schools have seen enrollment of Hispanic children on the rise for the past five years.

In Hillsborough County, the region’s largest district, Hispanics now make up more than one third of the student body. And many of the children and their parents don’t have a firm grasp of the English language.

That can make navigating the system difficult.

The school district is taking steps to make it easier for families.

“It seemed a little bit complicated,” parent Valeska Torres said of getting her 6-year-old enrolled, “but now it’s much better thanks to the help and advice of all these people.” Read more here.

Hot topics

Book challenges: Brevard County School Board members called for clarifications on how the schools handle book fairs and classroom libraries, Florida Today reports.

Bus rides: Bay County schools are turning to transportation office staff to drive routes when drivers are out, the Panama City News Herald reports. • Families in an Orange County neighborhood are complaining that their children were not provided bus transportation to school and must walk an unsafe route, Spectrum 13 reports.

Classical education: The number of conservative charter and private schools promoting a “classical” education is rising in Florida, with controversial Hillsdale College in Michigan supporting the effort, WFTS reports.

Gender issues: The Brevard County school district faced allegations, advanced by a state lawmaker, that its policy on transgender student restroom use led to the assault of a student. The school district and local law enforcement said they have no evidence of any incident, Florida Today reports.

Growth: The St. Johns County school district continued to experience rapid growth, with a 4% increase in student population from one year to the next, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Race lessons: The Escambia County school district rebutted a teacher’s claim that a district official improperly removed a classroom display on Black history, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. The explanation involves classroom organization and required materials for children with autism.

School security: Broward County law enforcement is conducting active school shooter drills, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The Volusia County school district upgraded its security measures for the new academic year, WFTV reports.

Teacher pay: The Duval County school district reached a tentative agreement to increase starting teacher pay to $48,700, WJXT reports.

Other school news

The University of South Florida is moving ahead with plans to build a campus football stadium. Three companies have bid on the project.

‘Such a distraction.’ Monroe County schools are telling children in elementary and middle schools to put their cell phones away during classes, WLRN reports.

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Lawmakers made it easier for military veterans to get temporary teaching certificates. Now Gov. Ron DeSantis has set up a system to recruit and help those veterans, Florida Politics reports.

Florida’s recently adopted law on university accreditation faces a new hurdle. Updated federal requirements would require the state to get U.S. Department of Education approval to change accreditors, Politico Florida reports.

From the police blotter ... A Pinellas County private preschool teacher was arrested on accusations of punching a student.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Mark Hamill once got fired from Jack in the Box for using crazy voices and messing around. Now a famous movie star and animation voice actor, the chain welcomed him back and played it up on social media.

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Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.

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