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Nothing has changed on Florida’s school opening, district officials say

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.

If you thought that Judge Dodson’s ruling against the Department of Education’s reopening order might have an immediate impact, think again. School boards heard questions and concerns about the order from teachers and parents on Tuesday. But they noted that the judge’s ruling might not stand — the state has appealed — and further observed that students have already begun classes successfully. So they made no move to change their path. That includes in Hillsborough County, which had been used as a key example in the case. The plaintiffs, meanwhile, filed a motion late Tuesday to remove the hold on the order that took effect with the state’s appeal. “The stay should be vacated so that locally elected school boards, acting with sound medical advice, may determine when it is safe, as required by Article IX, § 1(a), to reopen brick and mortar schools free from the threat of loss of school funding to ensure that educators, school staff, students, their family members at home, and the community are not exposed to needless danger posed by the pandemic,” the lawyers wrote. Students continued to attend their classes. Read on for more.

Union leaders urged the Pinellas School Board to consider a move to online-only classes. That wasn’t in the cards. But the board did ask for guidelines to help decide if it must shutter schools in the future. • Lee County officials explained to their board how they will decide whether to close a classroom, school or even the entire district, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Many families aren’t keen on remote learning. It appears a driving force behind declining enrollment in Broward County elementary schools, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • Miami-Dade County’s online teaching system has racked up complaints from teachers preparing to use it, the Miami Herald reports. • With their local virus trends improving, both Broward and Miami-Dade are considering reopening campuses earlier than planned, WTVJ reports. More from the Miami Herald. • Meanwhile, a Monroe County private school offering in-person instruction has seen its enrollment double, the Key West Citizen reports.

A group of Polk County teachers wanted to lead classes remotely, but were denied. Their union has filed a class action grievance against the district, WFLA reports. • Some Orange County teachers resigned rather than return, Spectrum 13 reports. • Several districts report that their turnover rates are no different than usual, WFTS reports.

An ongoing worry: Everyone on campus might not remain vigilant in following safety protocols. Department of Health officials have noted a slide in Walton County schools, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. • The Volusia County teachers union declared impasse in negotiations over working conditions, WKMG reports.

Cases continued to pop up. Seminole County schools have asked more than 100 students to quarantine, WKMG reports. • Brevard County schools had 15 positive cases in the weeks leading to classes, Florida Today reports. • Three Lake County students were told to quarantine after exposure to a person who tested positive, the Daily Commercial reports. • Families at two Polk County schools were alerted to positive cases after one day of classes, the Ledger reports. • A draft report about cases in Duval County schools was withdrawn amid questions of inconsistencies, the Florida Times-Union reports. • The Pasco County school district launched a new COVID-19 dashboard, reporting one case from its nearly 80 schools through the second day of classes.

Tara Ruggiero goes through the alphabet for letter recognition while on a Zoom call with a student during a kindergarten screening in her kindergarten classroom at Macfarlane Park IB Elementary. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Who’s Zooming who? The Citrus County School Board debated whether students should be allowed to turn off their cameras when participating in Zoom classes, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Clearing the air. Parents at Sarasota County’s Pine View School raised money to provide a hospital-grade air purifier for every classroom in the school, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Masks remain an important part of the protective effort. The St. Johns County School Board decided students who refuse will be reassigned to remote classes, WJAX reports. • The Orange County board altered its rule to ban gaiters, buffs and masks with valves, all considered to be less effective in preventing virus spread, WKMG reports.

Parties don’t help. Florida Gulf Coast University suspended two fraternities for holding large off-campus parties, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. It was the latest higher education institution, following FAMU and the University of Tampa, to take steps to snuff out such gatherings.

This principal was considered a rising star. Then he abruptly departed the Pasco County school district.

What’s in a theme? A Pinellas County mom is calling her child’s school “Survivor” theme inappropriate because of the COVID-19 pandemic, WFLA reports.

Some parents want more prekindergarten choices. The state is poised to give providers added flexibility, WPTV reports.

Schools continue to provide mental health services. Broward County school leaders hope new crisis teams will help reduce suspensions and Baker Act cases, WLRN reports.

From the campaign trail ... The third-place finisher in an Orange County School Board race claims one of the two top vote-getters isn’t qualified to be on the ballot, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is still available.

Before you go ... Sometimes you just need a laugh. What better than a cockatoo dancing to Elvis?

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