Florida returns to school as winter break ends

Florida returns to school as winter break ends

After two weeks off to recharge from a most unusual and stressful fall, Florida’s school students and teachers begin their return to classes — if not classrooms — this morning. Some will kick off new semesters under quickly crafted plans the state demanded for schools that intended to continue offering live remote instruction. Others will see out the end of their first terms, extended past winter vacation because of a delayed start in August while still working out how distance and in-person learning would coexist. The tensions remain, as some state officials continue to push for more children to attend face-to-face, while some families resist amid ongoing coronavirus concerns. The issues promise to foster more debate as lawmakers hold committee meetings beginning next week. Happy 2021! Read on for the latest.

They’re back. Students and staff at Hillsborough County’s Tampa Heights Elementary have gone without a permanent school since their campus burned after Hurricane Irma. They return Monday to a newly completed renovation.

Pinellas County’s Science Center has fallen on hard times. Civic leaders want to revitalize the site as a place for students to launch careers with extracurricular STEM activities.

How to sum up the pandemic in six words? These Pasco County private school students did it. Can you?

Still learning from home? A FishHawk Ranch handyman has just the desk for you.

Schools continue to urge struggling students to come back. Manatee County parents are getting letters from their district, the Bradenton Herald reports. * Similar letters are expected to go to more than 75,000 south Florida students, the Sun-Sentinel reports. * Treasure Coast school districts expect in-person student counts to rise, but don’t plan to change their health and safety protocols, TC Palm reports. * Duval County schools are preparing for more bodies on campus, the Florida Times-Union reports. * The Palm Beach County school district has asked families to register their initial second-semester choice by Jan. 11, the Palm Beach Post reports. * Some Seminole County parents say they won’t send their kids back as long as masks are required, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Many school districts have used rapid testing to help identify infected students and staff. The Miami-Dade County district had access to the “gold standard” test for months before deciding to use it, the Miami Herald reports.

Getting an appointment for the vaccine can be tough. The Brevard County school district has offered scheduling flexibility for employees who secure times during work hours, Space Coast Daily reports. * Duval County school medical workers and employees over 65 years old will be prioritized for inoculations, WJXT reports. * Some Florida teachers are upset that they’re not higher on the vaccination priority list, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Paramedic, Nick Maleski, prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for residents and staff at Gulf Shore Care Center, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Pinellas Park. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

Many schools have canceled travel for field trips during the pandemic. They’re offering virtual experiences instead, the Naples Daily News reports.

State leaders say too many youngsters aren’t ready for kindergarten. The Volusia County school district has joined a prekindergarten pilot program aimed at improving preparedness, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Florida offers scholarships to students who are bullied at school. A Polk County family claimed their middle school has refused to support a transfer after their child was beaten on campus, the Ledger reports.

Leaders of a Manatee County charter school challenged the district’s decision to close the school. They lost another round in court, the News Service of Florida reports. The chairman of the Manatee School Board had alleged the district relied on false information when deciding the charter’s fate, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The Miami-Dade County school district paid $9 million to settle a case where students accused a teacher of rape. It then tried to stop the victims from discussing the deal, the Miami Herald reports.

Nearly 80 years ago, two Brevard County Black teachers lost their jobs, and later their lives, fighting racism. The local teacher union is working to bring their history to light, Florida Today reports.

Don’t pass that stopped school bus with flashing reds. The fine is now doubled, Florida Politics reports.

From the court docket … A Duval County family sued the school district, alleging their daughter was sexually assaulted inside a school, WJXT reports. * Florida Virtual School filed a federal suit against competitor K-12 Inc. alleging trademark infringement, the News Service of Florida reports.

No charges here. The state declined to prosecute a Marion County substitute teacher accused of inappropriately touching a student, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. * An Alachua County high school band director has been cleared of allegations that he sent sexually suggestive messages to a student, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Soft landing. Embroiled in controversy over social media comments, the governor’s communications director resigned and took a top spot in the Florida Department of Education, Florida Politics reports.

Before you go … How about one more comedic look back at the year that was 2020?

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