One item contained in the 160 pages of HB 7029 that is getting a lot of buzz is intended to open parent choices by allowing students to cross district boundaries “to any public school, including charter schools, that has not reached capacity in the district” .
To manage the process, each district must adopt what’s called “a controlled open enrollment plan”.
Of course, the law is a lot more detailed than those key phrases, and folks in the Department of Education in Tallahassee are now busy putting together guidelines as to what exactly that means and how districts can comply.
What is capacity? What about schools, that are filled by lottery, including Palm Beach County’s very popular Suncoast High or Dreyfoos School of the Arts?
“No one should rush to judgment until the state releases the technical information,” said Pete Licata, head of the district’s choice department.
That technical information is expected to be out in a month or so.
Some things we do know:
The law doesn’t kick in until the 2017-18 school year.
The Palm Beach County School District counted 34 schools filled to capacity or beyond on the 11th day of the school year. (see chart)
Nine more schools in the county are at 95 percent capacity or more. (see below)
A handful of students already cross into the district from beyond its boundaries – most are the children of school district employees, some have been placed in county schools under special circumstances, such as for their safety.
Here’s a list of schools that were at or beyond capacity on the 11th day of this school year as reported by the district:
Nine other schools count 95 to 98 percent of their capacity filled, in order from least to most full: Watson B. Duncan Middle, Morikami Park Elem., North Grade Elem., Pine Jog Elem., Bak Middle SOA, Cholee Lake Elem., Everglades Elem., Park Vista High, Liberty Park Elem.
AP reports the law alsoadds to state law performance-funding formulas for colleges and universities; allows private schools to join the Florida High School Athletic Association or other organizations on a sport-by-sport basis; and gives charter schools that serve lower-income students or those with disabilities a bigger slice of construction funding doled out by the state.
Did you get in? Palm Beach County school choice lottery results go out Friday.
Most students haven’t even begun to study for final exams, but Friday thousands already will be looking to next year when the Palm Beach County School District hits the “send” button on its choice program acceptance emails.
More than 19,000 students have applied for one of 10,000 seats in the district’s 306 choice programs. That’s about 1,000 more students in the lottery than last year vying for spots in everything from dance to cyber security studies.
Friday at 4 p.m., the district will let those applicants know if they’ve landed in their program of choice or on a waiting list. All but 2 percent will get that notice via email, the others who didn’t submit an email address will have to wait a day or so for the post office to deliver the letter on paper, said Pete Licata, director of the district’s choice and career options department.
Each student was allowed to apply to two programs – one a backup if their first choice was full. That yielded more than 33,000 applications – 2,000 more than last year.
The district this year has expanded its options, adding, for example, a Marine ROTC at Olympic Heights High and a medical program at Boynton Beach High.
“As principal of Palm Beach Lakes High School, everything that happens at the school is my responsibility. I apologize to students and parents for any confusion and lack of communication as we’ve searched for a teacher who is a good fit for our school and students.
“After Wednesday’s School Board meeting, where students raised concerned about their Geometry class, I met with students on Thursday and parents on Friday. Thursday’s meeting with students was attended by two academic coaches and our ELL coordinator, while Friday’s meeting was attended by the assistant principal who oversees the math department, the assistant principal for curriculum and the mathematics academic coach, a certified teacher who will be teaching the students through the end of the school year. The District will provide additional academic support as needed.
“Students will receive individual academic plans, and updates will be provided weekly on students’ progress to build on their strengths and address their weaknesses.
“I addressed students as young adults. I responded honestly and appropriately to any and all inquiries pertaining to the Geometry class, and shared with them personal statements made by their former teacher as to why he did not want to remain on the job. If that was perceived negatively, I apologize again. My intention was to improve and provide open communication on this matter.”
Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is expected to announce the district has reached agreements that will land its employees – from bus drivers to principals – raises for this year.
This morning, the contracts were posted to today’s school board agenda under new business. The one contract not posted by 1:50 p.m. was the Classroom Teachers Association, but union President Kathi Gundlach says that those negotiations have also ended in a raise that averages 3.1 percent and also gives teachers more money when they tutor, do in-service work and when they work at schools where students face the additional challenge of poverty and in schools with low grades from the state.
Update: The teacher raises are to be retroactive to July 2015, Gundlach said.
For others, in the most general terms, the raises appear to be 3 percent dating back to January 2015, with some exceptions. They cover everyone from interpreters for the deaf to principals and secretaries.
Notably, the base pay for bus drivers would go to $14 an hour, that’s an increase of $1.63. The district’s transportation was hit hard this fall with a double whammy: a new computerized route system that doled out impossible routes to drivers and a stable of drivers that was 50 to 75 drivers short. Both the superintendent and the drivers pointed to low salaries as part of the problem.
Palm Beach County health officials confirmed Monday that lab results identified the source of the illness that spiked absences at the school beginning in the middle of last week.
The school, in the Boynton Beach area, typically sees about 60 of its nearly 1,000 students sick on any given day, but last week the number rose to 90 on Wednesday and hit more than 250 by Friday. Monday, 137 were absent and another 49 were sent home, said school district spokeswoman Kathy Burstein
“We don’t feel it’s peaked yet,” O’Connor said Monday. “We don’t want to speculate. But (the outbreak at)Wellington Elementary last yearwent on for a good 30 days even with a spring break. It came back when the kids came back.
“We’re hoping to get it under control as soon as possible. The school district is being much more aggressive with the cleaning part this time,” O’Connor said.
Principal Laura Green sent a note home to parents urging them to double down on hand washing efforts and keep sick children at home after symptoms abate for at least 48 hours to stop the contagion.
That part is key, O’Connor said. “Any sooner and they can still shed the virus.”
At the same time, sanitation crews scoured the campus daily cleaning water fountains, bathrooms, rooms in which students were absent and common areas including the cafeteria and library, school district officials reported.
In an abundance of caution, the county’s Supervisor of Elections also relocated two voting precincts in Tuesday’s election. Voters casting ballots in precincts 3138 and 3164 should head to Boynton Beach High at 4975 Park Ridge Blvd. instead.
Norovirus is sometimes referred to as food poisoning or stomach flu, but it’s not actually the flu. Instead, it is a virus that inflames its victim’s stomach and intestines leading to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. Getting it once does not give you any immunity from getting it again.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports norovirus is the most common cause of “acute gastroenteritis” in the United States, infecting 19 to 21 million a year, and sending from 56,000 to 71,000 people each year to the hospital. It can be fatal, killing 570 to 800 people annually.
It is spread when you touch things already contaminated with the virus and then put your fingers in your mouth. Sharing food, eating off the same utensils and coming into close contact with someone who is already sick can make you sick too.
We hear about outbreaks on cruise ships, but they happen in a variety of closed places including daycare centers, nursing homes and schools, the CDC reports. We’re in the middle of norovirus season – from November to April – when outbreaks are most common.
Students have a short school week with no school during a teacher work day Friday, heading into a week off for Spring Break next week. But Friday is also the day the district has chosen to encourage parents to Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work. (Nationally, this is celebrated on April 28 this year, but that comes during Florida’s testing season.)
WEDNESDAYThe School Board meets. A workshop begins at 4 p.m. and the regularly monthly meeting follows at 5 p.m. at district headquarters 3300 Forest Hill Boulevard.
Some highlights from the agenda:
Buses The board is set to give final approval to leasing 60 replacement buses at $7 million. It will also consider putting 30 old buses out to pasture, sending them out for salvage.
Cafeteria Royal Palm Beach High becomes the latest high school to get a cafeteria makeover using federal meals program money. The board already agreed to the &743,700 makeover, this vote approves the construction contract. Atlantic, Forest Hill and Santaluces high schools report more students are eating lunch after what was served and how to present it was reconsidered. Next up: Palm Beach Central High, per board vote Nov. 17, 2015.
Lunch money Looks like the cost of buying a school lunch is expected to remain the same next year at $2.05 for elementary schools and $2.30 at middle and high schools. A reduced price lunch through the Department of Agriculture holds at 40 cents.
The bill to require 20 minutes of recess a day seems unlikely to make it through the last days of the Florida legislature. Update: It failed. At least kids still have PE, right?
Florida law already requires physical education class for 150 minutes a week in elementary school. But do students actually get the full 150? Most parents look at the schedule the school sends home with their children, add up the minutes and say, ‘No.’
Take Limestone Creek Elementary in Jupiter, for example.
Like most schools, Limestone has a number of courses its students cycle through one per day, called “the wheel”. The wheel is a seven- or eight-day rotation that includes five subjects in a given semester: art, music, PE, computers and either media (the library) or guidance. PE is in the rotation more than once, the administrators explained, so that each student gets PE via the wheel three times a week for 35 minutes a day.
That’s 105 minutes.
Look at the wheel schedules as at other schools collected from parents across the district, you see the same thing. A half hour three days a week. Thirty-five minutes on Day Four.
“I don’t know one wheel that would get to 150 minutes,” said the district’s Chief Academic Officer Keith Oswald.
Instead, each school is charged with creating schedules that have classroom teachers cover the rest of those minutes either inside or outside the classroom, Oswald said. These additional minutes are not to be confused with recess, which is encouraged by district policy, but not required, Oswald said.
PE is defined by Florida law as “physical activities of at least a moderate intensity level and for a duration sufficient to provide a significant health benefit to students” in a program reviewed by a certified PE teacher.
It includes “individual activities as well as competitive and non-competitive team sports,” according to policy.
These days, every Palm Beach County elementary school has at least one PE teacher, some have two – one, in the Glades, has three, said Eric Stern, who is in charge of physical education curriculum for the district. That’s more than were in school about a decade ago, he recalls.
But it’s not enough for every student, every day.
So the district relies on classroom teachers for the rest.
The district has given them training in a variety of ways to do PE, Stern said.
“It could be indoors or outdoors. It could be a jump rope lesson, relay races, a modified game of kickball. That’s what it could be,” Stern said.
The district has created physical activity packets with 100 suggestions that require little or no equipment. Teachers can also tap into resources such as GoNoodle, an online trove of activities and games to employ in the classroom. (According to GoNoodle’s monthly report, more than 1,800 teachers tapped into the site and played more than 25,000 “physical activity breaks”. Allamanda Elementary was a top user this month with 930 breaks played.)
Every minute, in every classroom is not monitored by the district, however.
Each school submits its plans to the district as part of its “master board” of scheduling. But that board does not drill down to each teacher’s room. It’s up to the principal to be sure each teacher has scheduled that time for his or her students, Oswald said.
“It is challenging. Principals and teachers are frustrated because there are not enough hours in the day to get everything on there that is required,” Oswald said.
They aren’t the only ones frustrated.
Sharon Owen, a mother of two, questioned how much playground time her children were getting. A proponent of the failed required recess bill, she looked at her children’s schedules and didn’t see 150 minutes of PE either.
“I’ve spoken to my school about this and they’ve used recess to get to the 150 minutes of PE. They’re telling me recess is structured with a teacher. They say recess is the same thing. To me, they’re not following the law.
“People need to know they’re kids aren’t getting recess. People say kids are getting PE, but are they? Pick one. It’s recess or it’s not.”
Joy Kastanias wants to be clear: Her daughter is getting recess at school daily, but in the Jupiter mom’s circle of friends, the girl seems to be the exception.
So many people told the parent activist, “I don’t know why my kid isn’t getting recess,” that Kastanias started asking around. Eventually, she found herself seated before the Palm Beach County School Board armed with a fistful of woe and advocating for a law to do what many teachers can’t – find time for children to play.
Yet it has become urgent enough that like-minded parents have managed to forward a bill during this legislative session that would demand 20 minutes of recess daily for every elementary student in Florida.