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COVID-19 cases rise in schools as state presses to keep campuses open

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
An image from a Pinellas County school district video shows elementary school students wearing masks and sitting behind protective coverings while at lunch. The video was made to give families a glimpse of what schools will be like when they reopen during the pandemic.
An image from a Pinellas County school district video shows elementary school students wearing masks and sitting behind protective coverings while at lunch. The video was made to give families a glimpse of what schools will be like when they reopen during the pandemic. [ Pinellas County Schools ]
Published Aug. 21, 2020|Updated Aug. 21, 2020

After two days of hearings, Judge Charles Dodson sure does have some weighty issues to decide. The state has argued the importance of reopening schools, while the teachers and parents trying to stop in-person classes have focused on whether it’s safe to be inside the buildings while COVID-19 positivity rates remain above 5 percent. While the judge deliberates, a growing number of schools will open their doors. Can you remember a more contentious start to a school year? Read on for the latest.

Looking for justification to get back into the classroom? Witnesses in Florida Education Association v. Gov. Ron DeSantis offered plenty to support that view. Here’s our Twitter thread if you want more than a summary. • The Bradenton Herald offers a story focused on Manatee School Board member Scott Hopes’ testimony. • Education commissioner Richard Corcoran did not take the stand for the defense. He did speak about his views on reopening with NPR. • Closing arguments begin today at noon. Watch here.

Expect closures of classes and schools. That’s the prediction of Hillsborough County’s health department director. • At least five Manatee County schools have reported positive cases since reopening, the Bradenton Herald reports. • A Polk County charter school teacher was diagnosed with COVID-19, the Ledger reports. The school will remain open. • Several Franklin County students and staff have been voluntarily quarantined, the Apalachicola Times reports. • Thirty-three people at a Seminole County high school are asked to quarantine after a contact with a person who tested positive, WESH reports. • A Wakulla County kindergarten class is quarantined after a student tested positive, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

School can’t be 100 percent sterile and safe. So says St. Johns County superintendent Tim Forson, the St. Augustine Record reports. • A new study suggests children could play a larger role in transmitting the virus than previously believed, the Washington Post reports. • The Orange County Department of Health opened a rapid testing site devoted specifically to school needs, WMFE reports.

The state had told districts they could use FEMA money to buy masks and other protective equipment. That’s no longer true, WPTV reports.

A bottle of hand sanitizer and a bucket of disinfectant wipes sit on a Spanish teacher's desk at Tampa Preparatory School in downtown as the school makes preparations to start the year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bottle of hand sanitizer and a bucket of disinfectant wipes sit on a Spanish teacher's desk at Tampa Preparatory School in downtown as the school makes preparations to start the year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Some families want more options. Parents of children with special needs say Sarasota County schools haven’t provided enough services for the fall, WWSB reports. • Thousands of Brevard County students have yet to register for classes, which resume Monday, WKMG reports.

‘It was a great first day.’ Citrus County schools welcomed students back to campus, the Citrus County Chronicle reports. • It had been 160 days since Bay County students had been in classrooms, the Panama City News Herald reports. • Duval County had some early online access problems, but overall its first day with students went well, WJXT reports.

About that mask order ... These Indian River County parents hate it, TC Palm reports.

See something, say something. Palm Beach County students who share information or photos about COVID-19 issues they see in schools will not be disciplined, Boca News Now reports.

There’s been talk about teachers leaving over COVID-19 concerns. On the Treasure Coast, resignations are down from a year ago, TC Palm reports. • About 170 of 7,000 Duval County teachers called in sick on their first day with students, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Maybe they’ll pipe in some noise? Collier County high schools won’t allow fans to attend football games, the Naples Daily News reports.

This teacher’s actions exposed racial divides in a Sarasota County school. Now an independent arbitrator has upheld the district’s firing of the teacher, the Herald-Tribune reports.

From the police blotter ... A Polk County elementary school’s former PTO president was arrested on allegations of misusing the group’s credit card, the Ledger reports.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... This “Fold in the Cheese” video from Schitt’s Creek has become a thing on social media. How does it relate to education? It’s all in the labeling. Take a look at what one English professor did to connect the dots.

@professordavis2019

I made a thing! ##TeachersOfTikTok ##PublicEducation ##Teaching ##Teachers ##SchittsCreek ##David ##Moira ##DepartmentOfEducation ##Covid19

♬ original sound - professordavis2019
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