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Florida schools need in-person classes, Gov. Ron DeSantis insists

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.

Days after the Hillsborough County School Board defied the state’s reopening order, Gov. Ron DeSantis and education commissioner Richard Corcoran showed up at a charter school in the county with a simple message. If charter schools in Hillsborough can offer in-person classes to students, they suggested, so too should the district schools. “We want to see that as an option throughout the state of Florida,” the governor reiterated during his opening comments of an education roundtable. The way he described it, the flexibility that he has said exists for schools about isn’t as much about giving local officials the discretion to act without interference, as it is about having districts accommodate as many families as possible. They can choose not to, but then must accept the consequences. (Read: potential loss of per-student funding.) As Corcoran put it, the governor has offered “maximum flexibility, maximum certainty on funding, and choice. That is a great system I think every district should embrace.” Read on for more.

Empowering parents comes first. That was a key point of DeSantis’ message as he visited Winthrop College Prep Academy. Hillsborough district officials, who weren’t invited to the event, insisted their move to delay in-person classes was on solid legal footing. Expect the subject to loom large over the Pinellas County School Board’s meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m. Watch here.

Hillsborough isn’t the only district under state pressure. Palm Beach County district officials discussed revising their plans for returning to school after the Department of Education sent feedback rather than an approval, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Just how bad can COVID-19 get? University of South Florida researchers will study for early warning signs before patients take a turn for the worse.

Keeping the virus out of the schools is a top priority. Custodians alone can’t make it happen, the Bradenton Herald reports. • The state superintendents association has asked the Department of Education for direction and assistance on dealing with cases that arise in the schools, the News Service of Florida reports.

Des Moines Public Schools custodian Cynthia Adams cleans a desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. [ CHARLIE NEIBERGALL | AP ]

Maybe staying closed longer will help. More than 1,600 people signed a petition to delay classes in Martin County for two more weeks, TC Palm reports. The district is set to resume today. Some worry that 15 schools in Martin are in ZIP codes with high numbers of virus cases, TC Palm reports. • Broward County district officials say they’ll stay online-only until at least October, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

To go back, or not go back? Parents still are conflicted, Fresh Take Florida reports. • The Miami-Dade County school district is trying to provide more clarity for parents as they move forward, the Miami Herald reports.

For those who are returning, bus rides remain a concern. The Osceola County school district is looking to add routes and drivers to keep buses as spaced out as possible, WOFL reports.

Musical instruments, too. The Manatee County school district has canceled band and other music classes for the first semester, WWSB reports.

And don’t forget athletics. Many fall sports are high-contact. Leon County’s superintendent has suggested swapping the spring and fall seasons, so kids can still play, WTXL reports. • The FHSAA board of directors will meet Friday to decide the immediate plan for prep sports. You’ll now be able to watch online. • Perhaps this story offers some foreshadowing: The Big Ten college conference presidents voted to call off the fall football schedule, the Detroit Free Press reports.

This Florida mom has a story to share before you decide what to do. After seeing what her 5-year-old went through with COVID-19, she wouldn’t recommend in-person classes, Daily Beast reports.

For some, the time to choose has passed. Several colleges and school districts began classes on Monday, the Associated Press reports. • Orange County schools started online, and the superintendent says things went relatively well, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

He’s official. Brennan Asplen took the oath of office Monday to become Sarasota County’s new school superintendent, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Jackson County just opened a brand new school and a campus addition. Now its leaders want to replace an aging district school, if the state will approve the funds, the Jackson County Floridan reports.

Keep up with the latest news. You can see yesterday’s roundup if you missed something.

Before you go ... Did you know Taylor Swift’s new album has a Florida schools connection? Just ask the Polk County district.