Florida schools are reporting coronavirus cases. Or are they?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Crossing guard Annie Person, 76, on left, talks with Rodney Vanhorn as he walks his three children to school on the first day at Lakewood Elementary.
Crossing guard Annie Person, 76, on left, talks with Rodney Vanhorn as he walks his three children to school on the first day at Lakewood Elementary. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 31, 2020

It’s back to school for most of the rest Florida’s students today, with the challenge to the state’s reopening order back on hold on the authority of the 1st District Court of Appeal. Hernando County students are headed to their first day of classes, while Hillsborough County opens it doors to students after a week of online-only instruction. Follow our live thread on the latest from Hernando and Hillsborough. Families continue to evaluate both the in-person and at-home options, with an eye on how things look on campus. Districts have been reporting coronavirus cases as they arise, but there’s been some question about how long they’ll keep doing that. Read on for the latest.

Which way did they go? This year’s schooling option offered clear choices to some families, and made for some tough decisions for others. We talked to some of them to hear how they figured out what to do.

Teachers say they got no true choices. Palm Beach County educators are saying their district lied when it said those with health conditions would be allowed to work remotely when in-person classes resume, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Many people are counting the coronavirus cases. Tampa Bay area school districts began reporting daily information, saying they want full transparency with the public. The National Education Association has started a national tracker. Florida Covid Monitor has joined a tracking effort, too. • Cases among Florida children have risen 23 percent since schools started opening, the Sun-Sentinel reports. More from the Bradenton Herald. • But some Florida districts aren’t offering details. The Bay County system won’t say where cases are identified, citing health privacy laws, WJHG reports. • The Volusia County school district also has declined to provide specifics about cases, saying the state surgeon general claimed the information is confidential, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. That stance has gotten some Floridians more than a little upset.

One ongoing concern is the possible disruption of opening schools just to close them again. An Osceola County middle school shut its doors for two weeks after several staff members tested positive, the Orlando Sentinel reports. More from WKMG. • A Polk County charter high school postponed its in-person opening for two weeks after two virus cases were confirmed on campus, the Ledger reports. • Orange County school officials don’t discount that the same thing could happen there, WFTV reports.

Districts are taking steps to try to prevent such a move. St. Johns County schools each will have one to three substitute teachers and two nurses available, just in case, WJXT reports.

They also keep reminding parents not to send their kids to school sick. It’s been happening in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Lee County’s superintendent said he doesn’t anticipate a smooth opening day. He’s just looking for everyone to “make adjustments as needed,” the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • Lake County’s superintendent said things were mostly fine in her district’s first week back, the Daily Commercial reports.

Low enrollment increasingly is becoming a trouble spot. Sarasota County schools saw their numbers down nearly 3,000 students from projections, leading to a hiring freeze as administrators worry about possible funding losses in the second semester, after the state’s waivers expire, the Herald-Tribune reports. Manatee County student counts are down about 1,500, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Miami-Dade County teachers struggled to work with their district’s online education platform. They helped one another prepare, the Miami Herald reports.

Some teens still need to take their SAT exam. Several Florida schools canceled the latest testing date because of coronavirus, WSVN reports.

High schools continue to push for turning back on those Friday night lights. Duval County high schools announced they will limit football game attendance to 30 percent of capacity, the Florida Times-Union reports. (At least that’s better than Collier County, where no fans are allowed.) • Orange County high schools won’t let their football players attend in-person classes for the first semester, to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, WESH reports. • Palm Beach County student-athletes are pleading with their district to let them start playing, WPTV reports.

Take a hike. Three Citrus County schools have suspended bus routes because they don’t have enough drivers, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Staying home alone? First responders offer safety tips to Lee and Collier students attending classes remotely, the Naples Daily News reports. • Experts say parents should closely monitor their children’s at-home learning, the Miami Herald reports.

Keeping students safe. The Florida Department of Education reprimanded the Brevard County school district for not reporting five years ago about an athletic coach accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a student, Florida Today reports. The charges were later dropped.

Remember the grand jury investigating school districts’ compliance with state security laws? It has asked for an added six months to conduct its work, the News Service of Florida reports.

From the campaign trail ... Pinellas County School Board candidate Karl Nurse discusses his priorities with Florida Politics. • A Marion County School Board candidate who finished third in her primary has filed a complaint alleging one of the advancing candidates does not live in the district she seeks to represent, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Before you go ... The new Peacock streaming channel has made it easier to catch up on some old shows, like the quirky detective show Monk. Starting with the second season, the shows open with a theme song from Randy Newman that, in certain ways, seems quite an apt tune for these strange days. Here’s a live recording that Newman did of the song in 2014 with Vienna’s Radio Symphony Orchestra. Enjoy, and think about it.