What’s driving Florida’s school reopening? Science, or politics?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Students at San Antonio Elementary School in Pasco County work side by side on a lesson just weeks before the coronavirus shuttered campuses statewide. Officials are still trying to figure out what classrooms will look like upon children's return.
Students at San Antonio Elementary School in Pasco County work side by side on a lesson just weeks before the coronavirus shuttered campuses statewide. Officials are still trying to figure out what classrooms will look like upon children's return. [ Times (2020) ]
Published July 13, 2020

The politics over returning to school grow more intense daily, as pressure mounts to have schools reopen for in-person instruction even as Florida sets new records for positive COVID-19 test results. And that’s not just for the state. Those are national stats. Leading the charge is President Trump, who continues to question his own administration’s health experts and suggest everything is going to be okay. It’s almost intense enough to make one forget that we’re talking about children here. Read on for the latest on that and other Florida education news.

The Florida Board of Education plans to hammer home the point. It’s set to hold its first face-to-face meeting since February — in a Hillsborough County school.

Some critics say Gov. DeSantis is wielding his executive power only when it suits him and his politics. Such as his administration’s education emergency order, Politico Florida reports. • The state Senate president, a DeSantis ally, says districts can’t ignore that order, Florida Politics reports.

The Pinellas County district has released a draft of what it expects school to look like. Board members seem pleased with the proposal, but teacher leaders not so much. Want to see the recommendations floating around Tampa Bay area districts? They’re here. • The Volusia County school district posted its draft plan online, but quickly took it down, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board is criticizing his administration for failing to release its plan publicly, the Palm Beach Post reports. • The Orange and Seminole school boards are preparing to vote on their proposals, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Other districts that have recently given more details about their plans, as a state deadline to submit proposals for “innovative approaches” nears, include Taylor and Jefferson counties, WFSU reports.

Science, not politics, must drive the reopening effort. That’s what Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho said on Meet the Press on Sunday, noting the details are already complicated enough. Watch his comments for more.

Florida pediatricians are urging caution. They contend each region needs to consider its viral load in any reopening plan, WUSF reports. • Public health experts across the nation say a one-size-fits-all approach could drive infection rates higher, the Associated Press reports. • An internal CDC document found Florida among the states with the biggest “noticeable gaps” in school reopening plans, the NY Times reports. Maybe there are lessons from other countries we could learn, the NY Times reports.

Staying closed doesn’t work for everyone. Palm Beach County students who lacked internet in the spring still don’t have it now. And they’re concerned about their education as their schools don’t expect to reopen for in-person classes in August, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Distance learning doesn’t compare to classroom instruction, most teachers agree. But being exposed to a potentially deadly virus doesn’t rank too high on St. Johns County educators’ list, either, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Broward County teachers face a similar dilemma, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • Escambia County teachers say they’re mostly supportive of their district’s plans, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

What if a student needs to see a teacher’s mouth, or vice versa? There’s a mask for that, and Leon County schools want to buy some, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Reduced revenue has made it tough for some private and charter schools to stay afloat. Dozens of them in the Tampa Bay region received federal paycheck protection loans to ease the economic crush of the coronavirus.

A Sarasota County charter school has conducted a global pandemic simulation every year as a lesson. This year, it will get special software from one of its partners to help it track COVID-19 on campus, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The University of South Florida lately has received high marks as a great place for Black students. The recent mood among those students doesn’t reflect the rankings.

Education was her top priority. Now this Miami-Dade graduate who spent more than four hours daily commuting to campus is headed to Harvard, the Miami Herald reports.

Escambia County has narrowed its list of superintendent candidates. You might recognize more than one of the 10 names, as reported by the Pensacola News-Journal.

School board seats are supposed to be nonpartisan. You might not be able to tell in this Brevard County election campaign, Florida Today reports.

From the police blotter... A Charlotte County high school teacher and coach is arrested on accusations of having a sexual encounter with a minor female student, the Sun reports.

Before you go ... Since Richard Corcoran is Florida’s education commissioner, we keep tabs on what he says and shares on social media. In the past week he’s offered clips from Fox News, The Right View, and this morning he put out this video as one that “every student in America should hear.” Watch, and decide for yourselves.

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. Are politics too much in the reopening debate? Send an e-mail to - Jeff