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New start dates, mask mandates dominate school opening discussions

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.

School boards across the Sunshine State continued their seemingly endless string of meetings on Tuesday, as they continued to revise their plans for the fast approaching first day of classes. They also began holding budget public hearings, just to keep things lively. Keep reading for the latest.

Student calendars remained a focal point. Pinellas County students will start and end two weeks later than initially planned, while their breaks will stay the same. Superintendent Mike Grego said the district can use the extra time to prepare for two simultaneous education tracks. The district got its first rundown of who’s attending online and in-person after its Monday response deadline passed. • The Flagler County School Board approved a two-week delay, as well, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The Bay County School Board postponed its start date, too, as it added a fourth schooling option for students, the Panama City News Herald reports. • Collier County pushed its first day back to the end of August, the Naples Daily News reports. • St. Johns County took the same path, the St. Augustine Record reports. • The Leon County School Board moved its start date backward for the third time, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Officials there, at least, said they won’t be altering the calendar again.

One message came through loud and clear: Once you make a change, stick with it. Orange County’s move to flip its first day back to Aug. 10 after switching to Aug. 24 has peeved parents, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Another lesson: Teachers can affect their district plan. Martin County’s School Board never got as far as a vote to delay classes, after failing to negotiate terms with its teacher union, TC Palm reports. • The Bradford County School Board withdrew a proposal to allow students to watch classes from home, after teachers opposed having cameras in their classrooms, WJXT reports.

Mask mandates took priority, too. The Pasco County School Board made official its requirement after talking about it for a month. It can be temporary, board members stressed, if everyone will follow the rules. • The Citrus County board cemented its 90-day mask rule for buses and school properties, the Citrus County Chronicle reports. • The Polk County school district took steps to add masks to its student dress code for the new year, the Ledger reports.

Don’t forget the money. Hillsborough County district leaders told their board that COVID-19 related expenses have contributed to their dwindling reserves. • New spending on virus response, among other things, could affect Collier County’s reserves, the Naples Daily News reports.

What are districts buying? The Manatee County School Board authorized $350,000 to purchase face shields and desk partitions, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Alonso High School reading teacher Hiedi Glick demonstrates a face shield during a discussion of face coverings in the Hillsborough County Public Schools. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times staff ]

Some took issue with that reopening order from Tallahassee. The Lake County School Board decided to seek a waiver, saying decisions of such magnitude must be made locally, the Daily Commercial reports. • The Sarasota County school district, by contrast, cheered the state’s approval of its plan, the Herald-Tribune reports. • Meanwhile, more than 32,000 teachers have signed a petition urging Gov. DeSantis to recall the order, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Reopening is not just a K-12 issue. The University of Tampa announced plans to offer mostly in-person classes sooner than expected. Students aren’t thrilled.

What’s the concern all about? Scenarios like this: About 300 graduates of Brevard County’s Bayside High and their commencement guests are asked to self-quarantine after learning someone who attended the ceremony tested positive, Florida Today reports. • Not sure what the positivity rate is and why it matters? Read more about it here.

Not everyone is buying it, though. The chairwoman of Flagler County’s board offered debunked social media musings on the coronavirus during its Tuesday meeting, Flagler Live reports.

From the campaign trail ... Candidates for Pinellas School Board District 4 offer their thoughts on three things the district is doing well, and where it could improve.

Lee County residents thought they were getting a new middle school. It could be that one school might just be moving to the newly constructed buildings, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Where does he live? Allegations surface that a longtime Miami-Dade County School Board member didn’t live in his district for his past three terms, the Miami Herald reports.

A financial adviser was accused of violating rules in promoting a pension program to Florida teachers. It reached a $40 million civil settlement with the SEC, Education Next reports.

Want to see a story one more time? Yesterday’s news roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... Not to worry you or anything, but it is hurricane season too. Sorry.

The National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. advisory on Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine on July 29, 2020 shows Tropical Storm Isaias skirting the Gulf Coast and arriving in the Tampa Bay region on Sunday night. [ National Hurricane Center ]