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Florida’s school reopening order is back in play, vexing at least one district

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
The Hillsborough County School Board will have an emergency meeting to discuss its school reopening plan, in light of recent court activity.
The Hillsborough County School Board will have an emergency meeting to discuss its school reopening plan, in light of recent court activity. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]
Published Aug. 28, 2020

Florida’s ongoing lawsuit over the state’s school reopening order took its latest turn Thursday, when the trial court judge lifted the stay imposed on his ruling with the state’s appeal. Too many people faced potential “irreparable injury” if the mandate for in-person classes remained in place, Judge Dodson stated. Most observers, including the plaintiff’s lawyers, viewed the action as just one step toward a final decision. But for the Hillsborough County School Board, it had immediate impact. Read on for more.

Lifting the stay meant school districts no longer had to have state-approved reopening plans — at least temporarily. For the Hillsborough district, it meant reinstating the board’s 5-2 vote to keep campuses closed for four weeks instead of one. The board called an emergency meeting for 8 a.m. today to decide what to do. Watch here. • Visiting Tampa on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he believes the state will win the case in the end, Florida Politics reports.

As students return to schools, COVID-19 cases continue be reported. Deciding whether to impose a quarantine, and if so, upon whom, depends on the specifics of each instance. • Positive test results led to the entire front office staff at Hillsborough’s Spoto High School being sent home. • Three St. Lucie County schools ordered students into quarantine after exposures, TC Palm reports. • Four Polk County schools reported new cases, the Ledger reports. • The number of Orange County students and staff in quarantine is rising as health officials continue contact tracing, the Orlando Sentinel reports. So far, the virus isn’t being passed on campuses, officials said. • The Orange district is receiving 1,000 rapid testing kits for school-related cases, WMFE reports. • A Volusia County teacher has questioned her district’s COVID-19 response protocols, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Worried about in-person classes? Sarasota County doctors say it’s safe for students to return to campuses next week, the Observer reports. Sarasota schools reopen Monday, the Herald-Tribune reports. • So, too, do St. Johns County schools, the St. Augustine Record reports. • Monroe County students will begin returning to campuses in phases, as the county’s COVID-19 case load subsides, the Miami Herald reports. • Volusia County students have their doubts about returning to school, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Local virtual schools have seen their numbers boom. Historically tiny, the online programs have seen rises of close to 1,000 percent or more, WFTS reports.

Hillsborough Virtual School offers full-time enrollment and is a school choice option. It has added nearly 4,000 new students this year.
Hillsborough Virtual School offers full-time enrollment and is a school choice option. It has added nearly 4,000 new students this year. [ Twitter ]

The Gulf County school district will have a ’distance learning day’ on Sept. 4. It’s practice for the district’s “bricks and mortar” students, just in case, the Port St. Joe Star reports.

How prepared were the state and districts for a pandemic? It’s not clear that they had plans in advance, WTSP reports.

Where have all the students gone? Nearly 10,000 enrolled Duval County students have yet to show up for classes, the Florida Times-Union reports. • The Santa Rosa County district has about 2,000 students fewer than last year, raising concerns it could lose nearly $8 million in funding in the second semester, the Gulf Breeze News reports.

Masks are mandatory in Osceola County schools. District officials are investigating photos that appear to show teachers not wearing theirs, WESH reports.

Brevard County’s Edgewood High long has been known as the home of the Indians. Given the nation’s current state of racial affairs, the school has decided to retire its mascot, Florida Today reports.

The Escambia County School Board continues to look for its next superintendent. Four finalists interviewed for the post Thursday evening, NorthEscambia.com reports.

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