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Returning to school no easy choice for parents, students or teachers

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.

It’s not easy being a parent these days. The return to school is a month away, and districts have already set deadlines to tell them where you intend to send your children — a classroom, or online. Yet how are you supposed to really know, with so much uncertainty over the coronavirus spread and response? Still, they answer with their best guess. And how touchy can that be? Our story on Pasco County parents’ choices initially had the word “prefer” in the headline, but the immediate reaction was that their selection was not necessarily a preference, but rather what they had to do. Read on for that and the rest of today’s Florida education news.

Most Pasco parents picked in-person classes for their children. A majority of teachers said they’ll be there, too.

They should be, Gov. Ron DeSantis says. The governor doubled down on his demand that schools fully reopen, though he was mum on what might happen if they don’t listen. The money quote: “I’m confident, if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.” The social media reaction hasn’t been pretty.

Pinellas County finally released a draft of its plan. It includes hundreds of details, including mandatory masks. The School Board is scheduled to discuss it Tuesday, and ask parents to signal their choice by July 27. Take a peek here.

What might back-to-school look like elsewhere? Brevard County families got their first look at their district’s proposal, Florida Today reports. • Leon County parents have many questions about the virtual course alternative to in-person learning, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Some want more information before making a decision. • Manatee County district leaders are attempting to offer as much flexibility to students as possible, while meeting the governor’s desire, the Herald-Tribune reports. • Details keep coming from Lee County, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Here’s a key question for many: Can COVID-19 spread among youngsters? Well, a Volusia County school prekindergarten program is shuttered after one child tests positive and two others show symptoms, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • It’s already clear the virus spreads among adults. The Orange County school district has 18 employees on medical leave after testing positive, WKMG reports. • Concerns were high enough for the Leon County district to cancel all summer band camps, WTXL reports.

Amid all this, is the CDC really changing its guidelines? Officials there say it’s not, but will provide additional reference documents, USA Today reports. • Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has completed a report indicating that returning to school just a few times a week, with rotating schedules to keep crowding down, could provide benefits, Chalkbeat reports.

Jessica Nelson, a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Mitchell Elementary School, Tampa, leads a group of pre-kindergarten students to their classroom, Monday, June 22, 2020. Monday was the first day for the pre-kindergarten program with Covid-19 protocols at the school. All students wore masks, had their temperatures taken, and social distanced. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Hillsborough district officials want a closer look at the financial books. They’ve hired an outside consultant with lots of local experience to lead the review.

All online classes could force out many USF international students. The university community is pushing back against the federal immigration rule.

Context is everything. The Clay County School Board approved a liability waiver for outside groups that rent its facilities. Lots of people are wrongly suggesting it’s for students who return to classes during COVID-19, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Survey says ... A growing number of Duval County students have attempted suicide or used opioids, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The Lee County school district canceled a contract with a food provider after its owner called COVID-19 and Black Lives Matters “hoaxes.” The farm is suing, the Naples Daily News reports.

Also in the courts, a Florida Southern College student is suing the school. She wants her money back for online courses she found “subpar,” the Ledger reports.

Don’t miss a story. See yesterday’s roundup for anything you might have overlooked.

Before you go ... Yesterday we brought you some Hillsborough students performing Hamilton. Today, some Polk fifth graders offer their version of Romeo and Juliet. They refer to it as Shakespeare in the Zoom. Enjoy.

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 do you want to know before you choose whether to return to in-person classes? Send an e-mail to jsolochek@tampabay.com. - Jeff

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