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Florida school districts reexamine plans amid state’s reopening order

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.

The debate over whether Florida schools should begin in-person classes in August — and if so, how — continues to roil communities across the state. The rising number of COVID-19 cases has many people spooked, and talking about the best ways to protect themselves and others from what they fear will be petri dishes of virus, the indoor environment of air conditioned school buildings. Through it all, President Trump vowed to put increased pressure on schools to reopen (not that Florida government leaders needed much prodding). Read on for the latest.

Parents and teachers in the nation’s seventh largest school district made clear their preference for a mask requirement in schools. Hillsborough County’s superintendent announced his decision on that request Tuesday. Hint: He changed his mind.

One county to the north, parents raised concerns about having to choose a schooling option this week, with many details (like masks) yet undecided. Pasco County district officials reassured them that their selection won’t necessarily be set in stone.

Just a short drive east, Orange County educators urged their district officials to rethink reopening altogether. They rallied outside their School Board meeting, displaying homemade signs with messages such as “How many children must die?” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Some just won’t do it. State order or no, south Florida districts said they don’t have to have in-person classes as proposed, the Sun-Sentinel reports. They suggested the order seems to exceed the state’s constitutional authority, the Palm Beach Post reports. Plus, some districts — like Miami-Dade — don’t meet the health safety requirements set forth, the Miami Herald reports.

Some have no worries at all. Leon County is moving full speed ahead with an in-person option, which about 75 percent of families said they want, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • Marion County schools are providing just two options — at school with face masks provided, or online, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • It’s much the same story in Flagler County, Flagler Live reports.

For others, though, the state’s requirement to have a five-day-a-week in-person option caused a stir. Manatee County district officials, who had been contemplating a split schedule for secondary students, expected to go back to the drawing board, the Bradenton Herald reports. • The Lake County school district unveiled a model that offers full- and part-time in-person attendance, the Daily Commercial reports. • Some Polk County district leaders and parents likened the state’s order to the Hunger Games, and said they’ll keep working on their plans, the Ledger reports. • Duval County officials delayed their final plan to review how it will fit with state expectations, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Lee County’s reopening task force is taking a closer look at its options, too, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • St. Johns County School Board members, like many others, expressed their frustration with the entire situation, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Maybe the state could offer more clear guidance? Some union leaders think so, WUSF reports. And they got a national platform on CNN to state their case.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration ratcheted up its campaign to get kids back in classrooms across the nation. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pointed to Florida as a model, Education Week reports.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has praised Florida's school reopening plan. [ ALEX BRANDON | AP ]

It’s summertime, so it must be time for school leadership changes. Five Hillsborough County schools got new principals. Two Pasco County schools learned they will need new leaders.

The Volusia County school district has an interim superintendent. It’s the deputy superintendent, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Summer also means budgeting. Marion County district leaders have put together a task force to explore cuts as deep as 30 percent, if necessary, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Removing Confederate names from schools costs money. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is collecting donations to help pay for changes to several Duval County schools, where the budget is tight, the Florida Times-Union reports.

From the courts ... Two Flagler County teachers are suing their school district, saying they were denied promotions because they are Black, WJXT reports. • A former Walton County school nurse is given two years’ probation after pleading no contest to charges that she mishandled a student’s medication, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Did you miss a story? Check out yesterday’s roundup for a refresher.

Before you go ... The job of political cartoonist seems like a career from yesteryear. Yet Florida continues to have one of its own, up in Pensacola. As expected, Andy Marlette has a point of view that you might or might not like. Still, it’s always interesting to see how someone can get that perspective across in a drawing with a few words. A recent one touched on Florida’s current education situation. It’s not flattering. Check it out. Maybe you’ll decide to follow him to see where the cartoons land next.

Join our daily Facebook conversation to share your views. And be sure to share this roundup with your friends and colleagues. Know someone who might want to sign up for the Gradebook newsletter? Share this link. What are you thinking about as you decide whether to head back to school or stay home for learning? Send an e-mail to jsolochek@tampabay.com. - Jeff

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