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With schools open, Florida officials talk about how to keep them that way

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
 
Students line up to access the entrance on the first day of school for Hillsborough County students, at Hillsborough High School on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 in Tampa.
Students line up to access the entrance on the first day of school for Hillsborough County students, at Hillsborough High School on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Sept. 1, 2020

After months spent talking about COVID-19 positivity rates, Gov. Ron DeSantis aimed to change the conversation Monday, as thousands more students returned to classrooms. Now that schools are open, the governor started talking about his desire to have them stay that way. And he brought President Trump’s latest medical adviser, a Stanford-based radiologist, to provide the controversial perspective that testing people without symptoms and then closing schools based on positive results isn’t the way to go. Read on for that and the rest of the latest education news.

Virus testing should be used to help protect the vulnerable, state officials argued. Not to lock down schools.

Schools continued to act with caution. Hillsborough High School quarantined its football defensive and offensive lines, including the coaches, after one of the players tested positive. • More than 100 students and staff were asked to quarantine in Brevard County, WKMG reports. • St. Lucie County schools announced more quarantines, while Martin County had its first day without new cases, TC Palm reports.

They also made plans to make testing available as needed. Both Hillsborough and Pasco districts announced rapid testing programs, calling them safety measures. • Duval County will open special fast-testing lanes for public and private school students, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Another round welcomed back students, some in person for the first time since March. Hillsborough students said they were ready to be back on campus rather than cooped up at home. • Sarasota County schools opened with a new set of procedures to combat COVID-19, the Herald-Tribune reports. • Miami-Dade County students encountered computer troubles as they kicked off classes online, the Miami Herald reports. • Still online only, Palm Beach County students and teachers also struggled to log on, the Palm Beach Post reports. County officials asked the district to keep its campuses closed through September, the Post reports. • Leon County online students faced problems accessing their classes, too, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • Volusia County parents and teachers said they experienced tech troubles, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • St. Johns County schools saw a smooth transition back, the St. Augustine Record reports. • Alachua County schools reopened, too, the Gainesville Sun reports, along with Collier County (Naples Daily News) and Lee County (Fort Myers News-Press).

Duncan Goldtrap, 13, rides his bike to Burnett Middle School in Seffner on Monday, August 31, 2020. Hillsborough County reopened campuses today after starting the school year online for the first week and giving students the option to continue eLearning.
Duncan Goldtrap, 13, rides his bike to Burnett Middle School in Seffner on Monday, August 31, 2020. Hillsborough County reopened campuses today after starting the school year online for the first week and giving students the option to continue eLearning. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Reopening the schools doesn’t affect every family the same way. Tampa area Hispanic political leaders say their communities are disproportionately impacted negatively, Florida Politics reports.

Money is tight as a result of the pandemic’s economic impact. University of South Florida officials have prepared $36.7 million in budget cuts, with more likely. • Florida’s school guardian program funding appears about $5 million short, after the state reallocated some of the money to COVID-19 needs, WTSP reports.

Supplies to deal with the virus are costly. Manatee County schools received $10 million in federal support, and officials say they need every dollar, the Bradenton Herald reports.

What’s in a name? Quite a heavy load when your school is referred to as the Dixie Rebels. So staff and student leaders pushed to rebrand Pinellas County’s Dixie Hollins High. The change became official on Monday.

Schools must meet students’ special needs. A Bay County middle school will provide a sensory room for its students, the first non specialty school to do so, the Panama City News Herald reports.

From the court docket ... The state’s school safety commission reached a settlement in a suit filed by student activists who complained the panel held meetings at a remote location to deter the public from attending, the News Service of Florida reports. • The Department of Education has committed more than a half-million dollars in legal fees to fight for its school reopening order, the News Service of Florida reports.

She’s really leaving. Polk County superintendent Jacqueline Byrd confirms her announced retirement is happening, and wasn’t just a political ploy, the Ledger reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Lots of people still want to know whether their schools have any coronavirus cases in them. Some districts announce daily numbers. Some say nothing at all. The Hillsborough County district launched a nifty little dashboard for families to follow along. It doesn’t say how many people are affected with quarantines, but it does give a look at where the virus is showing up. Take a look.

The Hillsborough County school district launched a COVID-19 dashboard on Aug. 31, 2020, as students returned to in-person classes.
The Hillsborough County school district launched a COVID-19 dashboard on Aug. 31, 2020, as students returned to in-person classes. [ Hillsborough County schools ]