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Does a COVID-19 liability waiver mean schools aren’t safe?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.

School officials are looking at several aspects of what it means to open for classes during a pandemic. They’re reviewing sanitizing needs, social distancing designs, indoor air handling improvements and more. They’re also acknowledging that they can’t guarantee any precautions will prevent someone from getting ill. In some cases, they’re taking steps to make sure everyone knows and accepts that fact. Read on for that story and the rest of today’s Florida education news.

To return to schools run by the Diocese of St. Petersburg, parents are asked to sign a waiver. One mom called it a “death release” and wondered why anyone would complete it.

The concern is real. Three Florida state universities appear among the top seven schools nationally for positive COVID-19 tests.

A rise in cases is prompting some school districts to hold off reopening in person. The Monroe County School Board decided to hold online-only courses for the first four weeks, the Keys Weekly reports. • Neighboring Miami-Dade County delayed its start date to Aug. 31, and then will offer distance learning without opening school doors, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • Many Alachua County teachers and parents wanted that to be their plan, but didn’t get their wish, the Gainesville Sun reports.

For those that are welcoming students back, masks keep coming up. Volusia County School Board members worry their rules aren’t clear enough to be enforceable, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Students wearing masks take their seats in this image from a Pinellas County Schools video showing how classrooms could look when K-12 campuses reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. Experts say parents should talk honestly to their children about difficulties they may face when returning to school this year. [ Pinellas County Schools ]

Balance the risks and benefits, pediatricians advise. The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new recommendations to Gov. DeSantis on Wednesday, WLRN reports. • A panel of physicians in Duval County also called on the governor to help schools reopen safely, the Florida Times-Union reports. • DeSantis continued to defend in-person learning, the Orlando Sentinel reports. He argued it’s important for students with special needs, among other things, Florida Politics reports.

Having health care workers on site will be key. The Clay County school district is scrambling to hire health assistants after some nurses said they did not want to return to school, Clay Today reports.

And remember, if an aspect of the reopening impacts employees, they must be consulted. Brevard County teachers came closer to agreements on several key aspects of returning to work during the coronavirus, Florida Today reports. • Duval County bus drivers have yet to reach a deal on working conditions such as social distancing, WJXT reports. • St. Johns County teachers reached a tentative agreement on instruction, and on leaves for educators who don’t feel comfortable returning to classrooms, the St. Augustine Record reports. • Negotiations broke down in Martin County, TC Palm reports.

The question of a fall sports season remains unanswered. The FHSAA is exploring more possibilities, including pushing everything back to November.

Many parents are choosing to keep their kids home for remote classes, just to be safe. Sarasota County educators are trying to ensure that the families understand the online classes will look much different that what happened this past spring, the Herald-Tribune reports. • About half of Manatee County students plan to show up for classes, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Hillsborough County School Board members said they felt “disgusted” and “betrayed” after learning the district’s reserves had shrunk by $50 million. Retired superintendent Jeff Eakins says they shouldn’t be pointing fingers at him.

Can you believe Steve Currall has led USF for a year already? He sure has kept busy.

It’s time to set tax rates. One Escambia County School Board member parted ways with his colleagues, saying they should further reduce tax rates so bills are neutral for families struggling during the pandemic, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Want to see a story one more time? Revisit yesterday’s news roundup for another look.

What’s the latest on Isaias? It’s now a tropical storm, and shifting eastward.

Before you go ... Some people have wondered about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ unwillingness to mandate masks for schools, leaving it for districts to decide. It doesn’t appear to be a Republican thing, though. Kay Ivey, the GOP governor of neighboring Alabama, hasn’t shared in the reluctance. Here’s what she did Wednesday: