Norovirus sidelined 250 Boynton students, unlikely to abate soon, says health department

citrus coveThe nasty gastrointestinal bug that sidelined more than 100 Citrus Cove Elementary school students last week has now been identified as norovirus, the quick-spreading scourge that is most notoriously associated with outbreaks on cruise ships.

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 year went 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.”

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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.

 

No school in PBC Friday! But note these events first

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.)

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But before we all arrive at Spring Break…

TUESDAY Elections. Voting takes place at hundreds of spots across the county including more than 70 schools. Voters in the Boynton Beach area take note: Voting at Citrus Cove Elementary has been moved to Boynton Beach High due to a gastro illness that swept the elementary last week.  That’s precincts 3138 and 3164.

WEDNESDAY The 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illness sweeps Boynton area elementary school, prompts voting to be moved

sickThe county’s health officials have been notified and the school district’s cleaning crews have been deployed to battle a gastrointestinal illness that is sweeping through Citrus Cove Elementary in Boynton Beach this week.

The as yet unidentified illness also prompted the county’s elections supervisor to relocate voting precincts at the elementary, moving them to the auditorium at Boynton Beach High for Tuesday’s elections.

Concerns were raised Wednesday when absences at the school hit near 90 – far above the average 60 at the campus of nearly 1,000 students. Thursday, absences went up further to 117, said Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the state Health Department in Palm Beach County.

The health department was contacted and an effort began to sanitize rooms daily where students reported to be sick. The common areas including the cafeteria, library and water fountains are also being sanitized daily, Principal Laura Green told parents in a letter home this week.

The symptoms of this illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The department continues to investigate the cause. It does not appear to be the flu, which is a respiratory illness.

The school’s doors remained open for class Friday, but parents have been reminded that hand washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the illness.

If a child becomes ill, officials are asking parents to keep him or her at home until they’ve been symptom free for 48 hours.

No other school in the district has reported a similar outbreak.

Questions? Call the Epidemiology at Florida Department of Health in Palm beach County at 561-671-4184 or call the school.

 

 

The Trump gets fact-checked on the Common Core

Donald Trump (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)
Donald Trump (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)

At the GOP debate in Miami Thursday night, Donald Trump said Common Core is “education through Washington D.C.”

In this election season he isn’t the first to vilify the education standards that have been adopted by 42 states. Florida adopted Common Core standards in 2010 and then tweaked and renamed them the Florida State Standards in 2014 after public opposition. 

Which brings us to Trump’s declaration that Washington and the federal government are behind the Common Core standards.

The fact-checking website PolitiFace that rates the accuracy of statement by politicians rated this one False.

In their analysis, the fact checkers go to the history of Common Core – state education officials who wanted to create standards that set the same academic goals for students across states — so teachers would aim to impart the same knowledge and skills to students in Florida as they would in California or Massachussetts.  (Theirs has more detail.)

They also note that it’s been up to states to then adopt the standards.

When it comes to the feds, Politifact said:

Washington has done a bit to encourage states to adopt the standards. President Barack Obama’s signature education program, Race to the Top, gave states that have adopted a set of standards extra points (40 of a possible 500) when competing for grants.

But the federal government didn’t help create the standards, and has no control over how they’re implemented. Even states that have adopted the standards are still free to set their own curricula.

In short, it doesn’t matter who the president is because there’s not much the federal government can do about Common Core.

 

 

 

Is your kid getting the 150 minutes of PE state law requires?

recess
Recess at Limestone Creek Elementary, (Damon Higgins / Palm Beach Post)

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.

By district policy, PE is supposed to be an activity in which students practice motor skills and social skills.

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.”

Missed the story on recess?

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.

It shouldn’t be so hard, Kastanias argued. The district’s own wellness policy“encourages” daily recess in the lower grades.

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.

Read more… 

 

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FBI: Bomb threats to Jupiter, John I. Leonard high schools solved

handcuffs

Authorities have arrested the person they believe responsible for emailed bomb threats to Jupiter and John I. Leonard high schools and an unnamed Palm Beach County elementary school – and the culprit is not a student.

FBI officials said Tuesday that the threats, all madefrom late December to mid-February,  trace back to a 25-year-old man from Georgia who was stalking a woman who moved here.

They say Preston Alexander McWaters was using technology to pin the threats to the woman and her boyfriend. (Schools weren’t his only target, according to the FBI. Read the full story.)

That still leaves several threats to schools, including two called in to Wellington High in January, unsolved.

But Superintendent Robert Avossa said Tuesday that investigators continue to pursue those hoaxes and warned anyone who considers these mere pranks that they are, in fact, crimes.

 

 

Students must wait until mid-May for SAT results – but they liked the changes, says College Board

testingStudents aren’t due to get the results of last week’s new SAT until mid-May. But the College Board is reporting the results of a survey of some 8,000 of those test-takers Saturday.

According to the College Board:

  • 71% of students said the test reflected what they’re learning in school.
  • By a 6 to 1 margin, students said they preferred the format of the new SAT over the previous version of the test.
  • 75% of students said the Reading Test was the same as or easier than they expected.
  • 80% of students said the vocabulary on the test would be useful to them later in life, compared with 55% in March 2015.
  • 59% of students said the Math section tests the skills and knowledge needed for success in college and career.

 

And if you longingly missed all that obscure vocabulary that once littered the college admissions exam, here’s a fun read: The College Board’s announcement when it ditched the ‘recondite’ litany.

 

New York — Throughout its 100-year history, the abstruse vocabulary words of the SAT® have engendered prodigious vexation in millions of examinees annually. On Saturday, Jan. 23, students across the country participated in the terminal transpiration of the SAT in its habituated gestalt.

To adumbrate the changes to be manifest in future administrations of the assessment: The new SAT will be more trenchant and pellucid, and the format will no longer pertinaciously reward students who punctiliously engage in the antediluvian praxis of committing idiosyncratic words to memory.

College Board President David Coleman promulgated, “Your invectives and maledictions have been heard. Clemency has been granted.”

Many within the College Board and the academic community expressed a paucity of maudlin or mawkish emotion in response to the announcement.

“This is a new beginning for the SAT. Gone are obscure vocabulary words and tricky logic questions that are disconnected from the work students do every day,” said Stacy Caldwell, vice president of the SAT Program at the College Board. “Moving forward, students will encounter a test that focuses on the few things that matter most for college, work, and life. We believe these changes will benefit students and educators alike.”

 

 

 

UCF faces 2nd suit after hack exposed 63,000 Social Security numbers

 

UPDATE: University of Central Florida is now facing at least two lawsuits in the wake of the security breach that exposed more than 63,000 names and social security numbers belonging to students and staff, according to the Orlando Sentinel. A third suit has already been dismissed by a U.S. District Court, she reports.

The latest suit comes from a former student. The other was filed by the former manager of the men’s basketball team who claims his bank account was wiped out as a result.

The hack is under investigation by the FBI’s Jacksonville office.

 

 

computer

University of Central Florida officials revealed Thursday that some 63,000 Social Security numbers and names of students and staff both former and current had been hacked.

University officials discovered the hack on Jan. 8, reporting it to authorities and launching an internal investigation then, but telling students in a letter from the school’s president dated today. (Feb. 4, 2016) Those whose information was compromised

Those whose information was compromised will be getting a letter by mail explaining ow to sign up for a year of free credit monitoring and identity-protection services, according to the announcement signed by President John C. Hitt.

According to the letter, the university is working with a national digital forensics firm. They report that the breach did not include credit card information, financial records, medical records or grades.

The university has set up a call center: 1-800-752-5527 that is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday to field questions. It has also created a web page devoted to the incident that included recommendations on protecting your identity.

“UCF will continue to work diligently to protect this important information from those who would break the law to get it,” Hitt wrote.

According to the post, more information on who was affected by the hack:

Based on our investigation, we believe the intrusion into the university’s computer network resulted in unauthorized access to certain personal information for two groups.

One group includes some current student-athletes, as well as some former student-athletes who last played for UCF in 2014-15. This group also includes some student staff members, such as managers, supporting UCF teams.

The second group includes current and former university employees in a category known as OPS, or Other Personal Services. Examples of positions in this category include undergraduate student employees (including those in work-study positions), graduate assistants, housing resident assistants, adjunct faculty instructors, student government leaders and faculty members who have been paid for dual compensation/overload (for example, teaching additional classes). If you are not sure of your employment category, you can check with your supervisor or your department’s human resources representative. Employees who previously held but do not currently hold OPS positions may be included.

 

 

Didn’t pass Alg 1 EOC (or the 10g FSA )? Here are your options

questions

 

Update March 2017: The testing season is in full swing with Alg 1 testing possible in Palm Beach County from April 17 through May 12, 2017. Expect results in early June.

The Alg 1 end-of-course exam (EOC) is the only state-required EOC a student must pass to graduate. Students must also take EOCs in Geometry, Alg. 2, biology and US History. The scores must weigh 30 percent of the calculation of a course grade, but a passing score is not required. (Legislation this spring proposes to cut some EOCs, but any testing changes would not be in effect this year.)

The other must-pass test for graduation: 

The 10th grade FSA ELA – that’s Florida Standards Assessment in English language arts, is the other state-mandated test students must pass to graduate.

So, let’s say you don’t pass…

WHAT’S NEXT?

Didn’t pass the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam or the 10th grade English/language arts test? These are your alternatives:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given several times a year.

Algebra 1: Get a comparative score of 97 on the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test or PERT mathematics assessment.

10 grade English/language arts:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given during the school year.

ELA: Get a concordant score of 430 on the SAT reading or 19 on the ACT reading.

Source: The Florida Department of Education.