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Florida shutters its schools, universities over coronavirus. Plus, a teacher pay primer.

A roundup of stories from around the state.
University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for last fall's commencement ceremony. Don't be looking for such a crowded show this spring. All state universities have postponed their graduation activities because of coronavirus.
University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for last fall's commencement ceremony. Don't be looking for such a crowded show this spring. All state universities have postponed their graduation activities because of coronavirus.
Published Mar. 18, 2020
Updated Mar. 18, 2020

School’s out forever? It’s starting to seem that way, and we’re only into the third day of spring break. All the coronavirus cancellations keep growing, and our education system is of course very much in the mix. Read on for that and more Florida education news. • Join our daily Facebook conversation to share your views. And be sure to share this roundup with your friends and colleagues. Questions, comments or story ideas? Send an e-mail to jsolochek@tampabay.com. - Jeff

Don’t come back. After four cases of COVID-19 popped up on the University of Florida campus, Gov. Ron DeSantis wanted to take no chances. He called on the entire state university system to double down on actions to keep the illness from spreading. The decisions impact classes for the rest of the semester and into the summer. As for the excitement of graduation: It will have to wait.

When is spring break over? DeSantis also told K-12 students to stay home at least through April 15, at which time he and his team will reevaluate. In the meantime, he said distance learning should take place. But he waived testing and accountability requirements. Florida wasn’t alone. Kansas and Illinois were among the growing list of states calling off school for some, if not all, of the remainder of the year. (KSNT, Chicago Tribune)

But wait? Is that a power grab we see? Perhaps you didn’t notice it in the middle of all the closures, but part of the governor’s announcement on schools was this: “All district school board and state college board of trustees meetings through June 30, 2020, are postponed and may only be scheduled for emergency purposes only by the respective school district superintendent or college president.”

After a year in which education commissioner Richard Corcoran and the State Board of Education have increasingly flexed their powers and asked for even more, that quickly rubbed some board members around the state the wrong way. “Stomping on the constitutional authority of school boards is a problem, to say the least,” Monroe board member Sue Woltanski tweeted.

Manatee’s Charlie Kennedy quickly called on some of the more activist lawmakers to pay attention. Stay tuned on this one.

Life’s so different now. Carrollwood Day head of upper school Sara Rubenstein remembers growing up in the Cold War. Nothing happened then. It was just a threat in the background. She wishes she could promise a similar existence to her students, who have grown up in this post-9/11 world, where coronavirus offers just the latest menace. But it’s not that easy, she explains in a guest column to the Tampa Bay Times.

Want more coronavirus news? The Tampa Bay Times is providing all its latest stories about the pandemic online free of charge as a public service. You always could subscribe, too.

So is everyone ready for e-learning? Hillsborough County’s new superintendent is pulling his team together to make sure his district is on top of things. Leon County officials are already preparing for that possibility, too, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

If you don’t want to wait for the schools, you can turn to plenty of online resources to keep your kids intellectually active, the Naples Daily News reports. No internet? Charter and Comcast are ready to help, the Florida Star reports. Trying your hand at homeschooling? The Ledger has some tips for that, too. Maybe this will give you a better understanding of what teachers do:

And in other news ...

$500 million sure sounds like a lot of money. But the way that Florida lawmakers have decided to spread it around for teacher salaries has many educators — especially the veterans — less than thrilled. How exactly does the plan work? Let us explain.

But that’s for next year. Separate from any state plan, the Palm Beach County school district and teachers struck a deal for 3.25 percent raises on this year’s contract, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Suncoast scholars represent. Hernando and Pasco county public schools lead the way academically in their region, the Tampa Bay Partnership reports. But through a longer lens, the entire area could use some improvement.

Moving the money. It was an election day on Tuesday. And Monroe County voters agreed to let their school district transfer money from its capital to its operating budget, the Key West Citizen reports.