Many school districts are starting the year online as coronavirus surge eclipses more than 5 million cases in the U.S.

Many parents don’t want to repeat the experience of last spring where online education was for hours a day on Zoom. Forming a pandemic pod of students or private “quaranteam” by an instructor is one way to bolster learning during the pandemic.

But it can come at a cost — financially and socially.

As stressful as it always is for students applying to college, this year it's all that — and then some — for the admissions officials trying to decide whether to admit them. Because of the pandemic, many students will be applying without standardized test scores and several other metrics admissions officers at selective schools have long relied on, leaving colleges scrambling to figure out what else they might consider instead.

A new report says the number of children who tested positive for the coronavirus in the United States increased by 40% in July.

What happens if a teacher or student tests positive for COVID-19? The whole class, and all those in contact with the positive case, will be asked to quarantine for 14 days, the Pinellas County School Board said Tuesday.

Barely a week after Georgia reopened its public schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a school district north of Atlanta has ordered 925 students, teachers and staff to self-quarantine after dozens tested positive for the coronavirus. The district also announced the temporary closing of one of its hardest-hit high schools.

Superintendents Ask State To Address COVID-19 Testing Issues

Aug 11, 2020
classroom scene with teacher at whiteboard
Taylor Wilcox

As Florida schools reopen this month, district superintendents are calling on state officials to address two major challenges: the need for rapid testing for COVID-19 and a statewide plan to handle students and staff members who test positive.

While most children who catch the coronavirus have either no symptoms or mild ones, they are still at risk of developing "severe" symptoms requiring admission to an intensive care unit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report released Friday.

Hispanic and Black children in particular were much more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19, with Hispanic children about eight times as likely as white children to be hospitalized, while Black children were five times as likely.

On Thursday, the Hillsborough County School Board voted to delay the opening of brick-and-mortar schools by four weeks, and operate entirely remotely.

Barely a day later, the Florida Department of Education said that plan won’t work.

Florida’s statewide teachers union is challenging the state’s order to open brick and mortar schools in the fall – and the lawsuit is being moved to a Leon County court.

The change of venue, to the Second judicial circuit, was granted after lawyers for the Department of Education filed a motion to do so. Angel Cortiñas is an attorney representing the state agency and other defendants, like Governor Ron DeSantis.

An agreement between the Duval Teachers United (DTU) union, Duval County Public Schools, and five other employee representative groups would give teachers and other district employees a new COVID-19 related health benefit. It’s also expected to improve the district’s responsiveness to potential COVID-19 cases in schools, the groups and the district said in a joint release.

When Tierra Rushing arrived at school at about 7:30 a.m., some students were usually already waiting for her outside her office.

That was during a typical school year. Rushing is a social worker based at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, and she relished those moments when students would pop by just to chat about their days.

State Approves Online-Only Schools in Broward and Miami-Dade

Aug 7, 2020

Despite the governor’s urging that schools open in person, the state has approved plans by Broward and Miami-Dade school districts to start the new school year using distance learning only to contend with COVID-19.

Palm Beach County School District also expects to get approval from the Department of Education to start the school year online, district spokeswoman Claudia Shea said.

Palm Beach County moved the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31, while Miami-Dade moved it from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31. Broward plans to stick with its plan to open Aug. 19.

Hillsborough County Schools, Florida's third-largest school district and among the nation's top 10 in size, decided Thursday to delay the opening of brick-and-mortar schools by four weeks due to coronavirus concerns.

The School Board voted 5-2 to begin remote learning August 24, after hearing from medical experts who said the positive test rate for COVID-19 should be five percent or lower. In Hillsborough County, the rate is currently 11 percent. 

Portions of a Manatee County elementary school were closed temporarily for disinfection earlier this week and some employees are quarantining at home after an employee learned they were positive for COVID-19 on the first day of staff training for the new school year.

Teachers, Parents Of Students With Autism Prepare For School

Aug 6, 2020
Child wearing facemask
Marcia Wolfe

Alachua County Public Schools are set to open on Aug. 24, with many students resuming distance learning. But for children on the autism spectrum, that is not the best option.

Danielle Liso, assistant director of the UF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, said students with autism are generally very hands-on learners and learn best through direct interaction with their instructors.

As K-12 teachers and staff in Bay County prepare to reopen schools, district leaders have hired a registered nurse to serve as the primary contact for all COVID-19-related questions.

Most Florida school districts will reopen with some students learning from home and others learning in person.

But what happens when the coronavirus spreads through a school? Most reopening plans don’t address that, or do so vaguely.

With some students set to return to classrooms on Monday, state officials and Florida’s largest teachers union are locked in a legal battle over an order requiring schools to reopen this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the start of the school year nears for many students, not all college professors are ready to head back to the classroom. The United Faculty of Florida, a union that represents college and university faculty and staff, is calling on the governor to move all classes online for the next semester.

Children who attend school in Sarasota County will have to wear either a mask or clear face shield, except in a handful of circumstances, the school board decided by a unanimous 5-0 vote on Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends mask-wearing in public because it may slow the spread of coronavirus, especially when six feet of distance cannot be maintained. However, it does not recommend face shields as a substitute for masks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he would be “cautious” about linking school reopenings in Florida to COVID-19 positivity rates in communities.

Private Colleges Eye COVID-19 Liability, Testing Concerns

Aug 4, 2020
Rollins College
Rollins College

As private colleges and universities set plans to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of a statewide association is raising concerns about liability protections and virus testing costs.

Whether institutions can be held liable for students, faculty and staff members getting sick on campus is a top concern for school leaders as they gear up to reopen campuses for the fall term.

The Sarasota County School Board on Tuesday will offer details on the school district’s reopening plan. They will also finalize the district’s mask policy, determining what constitutes a mask and what exceptions will be made.

How Hands-On Nursing Education Went Online During Pandemic

Jul 31, 2020
woman at computer distance learning
Valorie MacKenna

As a nursing PhD student and teaching assistant at the University of Central Florida, Valorie MacKenna solved an important problem when the pandemic hit: how to move hands-on simulation classes online.

WMFE spoke with MacKenna about what that virtual education looked like and whether it’s the future of health care instruction.

Jeb Bush On Pandemic-Era Education: Don’t Abandon Accountability

Jul 31, 2020
Jeb Bush

Florida education officials canceled state exams earlier this year as public schools shifted abruptly online at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Former Gov. Jeb Bush doesn’t want to see that happen again.

In a long-awaited and much anticipated decision, Miami-Dade County Public Schools will start the school year remotely and at a later date of Monday, Aug. 31.

As school officials across Florida continue grappling with reopening classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a major group of pediatricians Wednesday released recommendations aimed at reducing risks to children and teachers.

Duval County Public School teachers, parents, students, along with local representatives, continue to demand that schools remain in a distance learning format until new COVID-19 cases in the county are minimized. 

Teacher Jeremy Blythe writes RIP on car window
Daylina Miller/WUSF

As coronvirus cases continue to rise in Florida, most counties are going with a hybrid plan that has many students attending school at least part-time. WUSF is amplifying the voices affected by this issue.

Today, we hear from Jeremy Blythe, a culinary teacher at Land O' Lakes High School in Pasco County. He recently organized a "motor march" protest for teachers to push for virtual school only until the state's positive cases average fewer than 5% over a 14-day period.

Vanessa Ince's daughter, Alexis, has a rare chromosomal abnormality and autism. Alexis has thrived at her public school in Wailuku, Hawaii, and loves spending time with her classmates.

Ince says when the COVID-19 pandemic closed her school in Wailuku, the effect on her daughter's well-being was "devastating."

"Alexis regressed so severely. She was previously, I would say, 95% potty trained and she started wetting herself." She also regressed in other areas, her mother says: She went back to crawling and stopped trying to use her communication device.