Elsa rakes the state and disrupts schools, a higher graduation bar, team endorsements and more

Elsa rakes the state and disrupts schools, a higher graduation bar, team endorsements and more

Elsa’s impact: Tropical Storm Elsa is bringing heavy rain, high winds, the threat of tornadoes and dangerous storm surge to the west coast of Florida this morning and closing K-12 schools in at least 28 counties as well as colleges and universities. In a few hours, Elsa is expected to begin moving to the north-northeast and make landfall somewhere in the Big Bend area, then roll through Georgia and the Carolinas. Late Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in seven north Florida counties, bringing the total to 33 counties. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Department of Education. DOE twitter. USA Today Florida Network. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Times-Union. Citrus County Chronicle. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. Florida PhoenixNational Hurricane Center. WTXL. WKMG. WOFL.

Graduation hurdles: After what many have called a lost year of education, the class of 2022 now faces more stringent requirements that must be met before they can graduate. In Palm Beach County, for instance, about 5,800 of the district’s 14,000 rising seniors still must pass one or both of the tests required for graduation. That’s nearly twice the number as in pre-pandemic years. And using scores from other state and national tests as a substitute will be more difficult because the minimum scores have been increased and the test options have been changed. The district said if the class of 2019 had been under the requirements the class of 2022 is, its graduation rate of 87 percent would have fallen 17 percentage points. “It’s a higher bar with less opportunities to get ready for it. It’s a double whammy,” said FairTest executive director Bob Schaeffer. “And whatever you think of graduation tests, it’s not fair, not for the class of 2022, maybe even 2023. They all lost a year-ish of regular school.” Palm Beach Post.

Around the state: Endorsement deals benefiting every athlete on college teams are already being signed just a week after the decision to let athletes be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses, a Brevard County teacher has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly taking part in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the Flagler County School District has declined an offer by health officials to provide free rapid-results coronavirus tests in schools this fall, a private Catholic school in Tampa is being sued by parents who want out of their $1.35 million pledge because they say it has distanced itself from Catholic doctrine, state general sales tax revenues beat expectations for a 10th straight month, and a Broward County high school salutatorian said she was deluged with hate mail after her graduation speech about racism that mentioned Middle Eastern students “who have had their land stolen.” Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: The salutatorian of Western High School in Davie said she had been deluged with hate mail since her graduation speech June 8, in which she criticized racism against minority students. Rachel Cheng specifically acknowledged Middle Eastern students “who have been facing struggle after struggle and are in constant fear of their families and friends being struck down by a militant government, who’ve had their land stolen and abused.” That statement drew a rebuke from many Jewish organizations. Miami New Times.

Hillsborough: A family that pledged $1.35 million to the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa has filed a lawsuit to rescind the donation, saying the school had “lost its way” by distancing itself from Catholic doctrine and has embraced a “woke culture” that emphasizes “gender identity, human sexuality and pregnancy termination among other hot button issues.” Anthony and Barbara Scarpo’s lawsuit also asks for a tuition refund for their two daughters, that the academy be ordered to stop advertising itself as a Catholic institution, and for the Florida Catholic Conference to stop accrediting the school. School officials deny the claims, and their attorney calls the lawsuit a “publicity stunt.” Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: A Viera High School physical education teacher is one of more than 350 people who have been arrested in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Tuesday, the FBI arrested Kenneth John Reda, 54, and charged him with illegally entering Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct. If Reda is convicted, he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison and fined. Brevard school officials said they would conduct an internal investigation into Reda’s role in the disturbance. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel.

Sarasota: Sarasota student Marcus Cruz has received the Freddie G. outstanding performance by an individual award at the 2021 Junior Theater Festival held last month in Texas. Cruz performs for the Spotlight Theatre, and he and Willa Carpenter were chosen as festival all-stars. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Flagler: The school district has declined an offer from the county health department to provide free rapid-results coronavirus tests on the campuses of the district’s nine schools. School officials said their decision was based on logistics and their wish to “create as much of a traditional school environment as possible for our students.” Eight private schools and Imagine at Town Center, a charter school, accepted the health department’s offer. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Endorsement deals benefiting every athlete on college teams are already being signed just a week after the decision to let athletes be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. University of Miami and University of Central Florida athletes are among those covered by team deals. UM scholarship football players will be paid $500 a month by a mixed martial arts academy for personal appearances and social media posts, and UCF women’s basketball players will benefit from a deal with College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving. Tampa Bay Times. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Anne Hopkins, the only female president in the history of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, has died at the age of 79. She led UNF from 1999 to 2002. She resigned because of health reasons but continued to work at the school as a political science professor. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

COVID and early development: A new study shows that children who attended preschool or went to child-care just one day a week during the pandemic between March and June 2020 understood an average of 24 more words than children who simply stayed home. More than half of the parents surveyed by the Sutton Trust felt that the pandemic negatively affected the social and emotional development of their 2- to 4-year-old children. The Conversation.

State revenues up: The state’s general sales tax revenue collections in May beat expectations for the 10th straight month, signaling a continuation of an economic recovery. Revenue collections totaled $3.6 billion, exceeding the forecast by almost 19 percent. Sales taxes make up the largest portion of general revenue, which is used to fund schools. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: Fewer than half of all U.S. students have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, which will be a major factor when school districts decide what safety precautions to adopt when schools resume in the fall. K-12 Dive. A bipartisan proposal to upgrade U.S. infrastructure would invest $65 billion to make high-speed broadband available to all Americans, target the removal of lead pipes in schools and begin to switch to electric school buses. K-12 Dive. Teachers unions around the country are pushing back against restrictions on how U.S. history is taught and on politicians’ depiction of teachers as agents for racial indoctrination. Politico. Pennsylvania’s legislature recently approved an additional $40 million to provide another 13,000 students with tax credit scholarships to attend private schools. Legislators also boosted overall education spending by $300 million. redefinED.

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