A daily round-up of education news and views for the Sunshine State
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Wednesday, 28th July 2021




CDC recommends universal masking in schools

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the highly transmissible Delta variant, has recommended that K-12 schools adopt universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors "regardless of vaccination status." The move marks a change from CDC guidance in May that said vaccinated people no longer needed to mask or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this change is "not a welcomed piece of news" and "was not a decision that was taken lightly," noting only 30% of children 12-17 are currently fully vaccinated. The new recommendations say children do not need to mask when they head outdoors for recess or physical education, for example, unless they will be standing in a crowd for long periods of time. That also puts the health agency in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last week recommended that everyone over the age of two wear masks in school. Becky Pringle and Randy Weingarten, presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers respectively, welcomed the move. "The science is clear that masking, COVID-19 vaccinations, appropriate ventilation, social distancing and handwashing, all in combination, is the best way to keep students, families, and educators safe and keep community transmission rates low," Ms Pringle says.

Fox 35 Orlando  The Miami Herald  Washington Post  Wall Street Journal 




Anti-mask protesters disrupt school board meeting

About 20 anti-mask protesters gathered at the Broward County School Board headquarters in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday, forcing a postponement of a discussion on mask requirements for the upcoming school year. "Folks weren't wearing masks and refused to follow the rules -- rules that people have followed for the last year and a half," School Board Member Sarah Leonardi said of the protesters. "It made it very difficult to hold our meeting behind closed doors." Leonardi also revealed that the group "set masks on fire" during their demonstration.

CNN  Bradenton.com 


Pinellas schools inks law enforcement agreement

After several months of review, the Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday approved a new working agreement with 13 law enforcement agencies that operate inside the schools. Originally set for adoption in February, the document came under fire from community groups, including the local NAACP chapter, for being devised without community input. Some civic leaders contended the proposal would lead to overpolicing of students in a district where Black children have been arrested at disproportionate rates.

Tampa Bay Times 


New principals in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County School District has announced a raft of new principals. James P. Harris is the new leader of Alonso High School, effective Aug. 2, Kimberly Cook is the new principal of Bing Elementary, Wallace Selph, formerly of Polk County is the new principal of Robles Elementary, while Skylaar Guyar, is the new principal of West Shore Elementary.

Tampa Bay Times 


Bay District Schools proposes lower property tax rate

Bay County School Board members have unanimously voted to approve the advertisement of a millage rate ceiling of 5.847, which is 0.121 mills less than the current FY20-21 rate of 5.968. Chief Financial Officer Jim Lloyd said the decrease comes as the state’s requirement for the local effort has slightly dropped. “It's gone down consistently year to year and that's because your property values have gone up, so you don't have to levy as much millage to generate the same amount of dollars,” he noted.

News Herald 




National test scores show pandemic stalled student progress

The pandemic that disrupted more than a year of schooling slowed progress in math and reading for millions of U.S. students, according to new national data from testing group NWEA, with Black, Latino, and low-income students hit hardest. The report, which focuses on students in grades three through eight and compares their progress this year to similar students from before the pandemic, found that by the end of last school year, the typical student was behind where they would normally be — three to six percentile points behind in reading and eight to 12 points behind in math, with younger students faring worse than their older peers. In elementary grades, Black, Latino, and Native American students usually saw much steeper declines than white and Asian students. Students in high-poverty schools also saw bigger drops than those in more affluent schools. Another analysis, based on a different test and released Tuesday by the consulting firm McKinsey, found similar results. First through sixth -graders were an average of five months behind where they would usually be in math and fourth months behind in reading.  Black and Latino students typically lost six months in math, while white students lost four months. “The losses are not only greater but also piled on top of historical inequities in opportunity and achievement,” wrote the McKinsey researchers.

Chalkbeat  New York Times 




U.S. sees surge in home schooling

Since Spring 2020, when the pandemic began to seriously disrupt life across the U.S., the number of families opting to homeschool their children has continued to increase. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in March that the rate of households homeschooling their children had risen to 11% by September 2020, more than doubling from 5.4% just six months earlier. Black households saw the largest jump; their homeschooling rate rose from 3.3% in the spring of 2020 to 16.1% in the fall. Joyce Burges, co-founder and program director of National Black Home Educators, said the 21-year-old organization had about 5,000 members before the pandemic and now has more than 35,000. Many of the new families experienced difficulties, including lack of internet access, that limited their children’s ability to benefit from virtual learning during the pandemic, Ms. Burges said.

Education Week 




Remington offers $33m to families of Sandy Hook victims

Remington Arms Co. has offered to pay nearly $33m to nine families to settle lawsuits claiming that its marketing of firearms contributed to the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people died. The Sandy Hook families have sought to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians such as the shooter, who used a Bushmaster AR-15 in the attack. Remington had filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2018 and emerged the same year under the control of its creditors. It filed for bankruptcy again in July 2020, after more retailers restricted gun sales following other school shootings.

Hartford Courant  Reuters 

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