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SRQ DAILY Mar 19, 2020

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"Just like beaches, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars we would hope our school board members would act responsibly and follow CDC guidelines."

- Taryn Fenske, Department of Education

[Education]  State Directive Upsets Schools Board Facing Health Crisis
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

An outbreak of coronavirus prompted Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to cancel school through April 15, but he also cancelled the meetings of county School Boards for months. The latter move angered elected officials who say the Commissioner reached beyond what the law allows.

“I can't believe what I’m reading from DOE [Department of Education],” wrote Manatee School Board member Charlie Kennedy on Twitter, who characterized the action as a “power grab” in the middle of a health crisis.

Corcoran’s office on Tuesday evening sent out a directive regarding schools and colleges that included direction that “all district school board and state college board of trustees meetings through June 30.” The directive only allowed for emergency meetings called by a district superintendent unless that position was vacant.

Taryn Fenske, DOE communications director, later characterized the directive as “strong recommendations” from Corcoran based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC right now has discouraged all gatherings of 10 or more people, something that would cover even the most poorly attended School Board meeting.

“This guidance was provided to ensure that everyone remains healthy and safe as we mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Fenske said. “Just like beaches, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars we would hope our school board members would act responsibly and follow CDC guidelines.”

Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler said she was of two minds. Such guidance will likely bring to a halt an ongoing search for a new superintendent here, she said. But officials must remain mindful of public health as well.

“it’s two fold. It’s clear it is a matter of public safety that people should not be meeting at this time. This directive eliminates that risk,” she said. “However, during extraordinary times, such as these, people look to their elected officials to lead. This makes that more difficult. I am confident we will have to have at least one ‘emergency’ meeting, and I believe we can host it virtually — so that the public can view and participate.” 

Photo of Manatee School Board Building.

[Law Enforcement]  Sarasota County Sheriff Pleased to Announce Internal Promotion

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight is pleased to announce the promotion of Corrections Deputy Anna Ferguson. Corrections Deputy Anna Ferguson is promoted to the rank of Sergeant assigned to the Courts and Corrections Division. Ferguson began her career in 2010 with the Florida Department of Corrections at the DeSoto facility before earning her corrections certification in 2011. She was hired by the sheriff’s office as a corrections deputy in 2012. Throughout her career, Ferguson was twice nominated for Courts and Corrections Employee of the Month, earning the distinction in 2015. She serves as a field training officer and has advanced training in crisis intervention, narcotics and dangerous drug detection, and inmate management and communication. Ferguson earned two associates degrees from Southwest Florida College and South Florida Community College. “This is a great day for our agency and our community,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “Sergeant Ferguson is a leader among her peers who is well respected and admired for her dedication to public service. We are very excited to see how she takes on this new leadership role within our correctional facility.” 

Read more from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office here.

[Achieva Credit Union]  A True "Cents" of Community: Advancing Education

Achieva Credit Union has been in Sarasota for 10 years and has been proud to be a GOOD neighbor every step of the way. The SRQ March BrandStory highlights several of the many of Achieva Credit Union’s community initiatives that advance education. Since Achieva Credit Union was founded by teachers, it only makes sense to get behind Sarasota schools in meaningful ways.

BACK 2 SCHOOL BASH: Hosted at the Sarasota Square Mall and University Town Center, Achieva handed out free backpacks and school supplies to local students at this event. Achieva also awarded students for their academic achievements: If they showed their report cards as proof that they made honor roll, they received a $25 bonus when opening an Achieva account.

ACHIEVA RUN FOR GOOD: Achieva hosts this annual family-friendly 5K run and walk, kids run, and dog walk (and costume contest) to benefit Sarasota schools.

WILKINSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Achieva has handed out “good job bucks” to Wilkin-on Elementary students for their punctuality, attendance and good grades. The students use the good job bucks to spend at the school’s “Positive Behavior School Store,” which was created to re- ward students for good behavior.

HERON CREEK MIDDLE SCHOOL GRANT: Using funds raised from the Run for GOOD, Achieva awarded a classroom grant to students at Heron Creek Middle School. The money was used for a hands-on activity where the kids learned about bees and beehives.

SCHOLARSHIPS AND GRANTS: Achieva awards annual college scholarships to deserving high school students who plan to major in education. But that’s not all. Working with the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Achieva has given 120 classroom grants – a total of $200,000 – to deserving Sarasota teachers since the partnership began in 2011.

Learn more through the Achieva Credit Union SRQ March BrandStory HERE 

View Achieva Credit Union's BrandStory Here

[Summer Fun Camps 2020]  Learn Coding With a Coach and Your Peers at The Coder School of Sarasota

At the CoderSchool of Sarasota, our summer camps are run on-site and are Monday through Friday (9am–3pm). Each week, we offer beginner and more advanced options. Students can bring their own sack lunches and the rest is taken care of. Students code throughout the week then demonstrate their creations to parents and families at the end of the last day. What better way to keep your kids’ brains active this summer? 

Click here for more information

[Hunger Relief]  All Faiths Food Bank Responds to COVID -19 Crisis with Food Deliveries

All Faiths Food Bank, Sarasota County’s largest hunger-relief organization, has ramped up to continue serving our community throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Operations at All Faiths' campuses are continuing as usual and its trucks are traveling their routes to deliver nutritious food to hungry neighbors. All Faiths has taken extra precautions to assure the safe and continued supply of food for people in need during the crisis. Right now, the Food Bank is packing thousands of family size food boxes to help us provide food safely. Its mobile pantries and backpacks are being increased and they are working with their partner agencies to assess how they can further support them through the COVID-19 situation. During the school closures, the organization is in close touch and collaborating with the Sarasota School District and other partners to finalize a plan to open new sites to provide meals and food for children. Details about new locations and times will be available within the week.

For families in immediate need, food can be picked up at one of the Food Bank’s mobile pantry locations and partner agency distributions. Please go to allfaithsfoodbank.org for locations and times. 

[Parks & Recreation]  City Recreational Facilities to Close This Week; Public Meetings Scaled Back

The City of Sarasota on Monday announced the suspension of organized events and activities at the City’s recreational facilities and a scaling back of upcoming public meetings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The following City facilities will be closed to the public beginning March 18, through at least the end of the month: Arlington Park and Aquatic Complex, Bobby Jones Golf Club, Lido Beach Pool, Payne Park Skate Park, Payne Park Tennis Center and Robert L. Taylor Community Center. The City’s parks and beaches will remain open to the public, but citizens are strongly advised to follow the advice of health officials regarding social distancing and limits on public gatherings. The City Commission’s next regular meeting scheduled for April 6 has been canceled. All scheduled City advisory board meetings, including the Planning Board and Development Review Committee, will also be suspended for the next 30 days. The actions are in accordance with the latest public health guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Governor’s Office and the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, City Manager Tom Barwin said.

Barwin, in consultation with Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, declared a local citywide public health emergency Friday. The declaration will be reviewed weekly, as outlined by the City Charter.  The Sarasota Police Department and other City departments will continue to provide vital services to our residents. Department heads are following best practices from health officials to limit employees’ exposure and transmission of COVID-19 while still meeting the needs of the community. Solid waste, recycling and yard waste collection schedules will continue as planned. In the interest of public health, residents and customers are advised to conduct business with the City whenever possible either online via the City’s website, SarasotaFL.gov, or by phone at 941-263-6000.

The Utilities Billing Office, 1761 12th St., is closed, but utility bills can continue to be paid online or at the bill pay drop-off box outside the building. The office can be reached at 941-263-6260 or 941-263-6261 or utilitybill@sarasotagov.com. The City’s Utilities Department will not be conducting any water shut-offs for the next 30 days. 

[Healthcare]  Visitation Update from Manatee Memorial Hospital

For the protection of patients, staff and the community, visitors will not be allowed in Manatee Memorial Hospital’s inpatient areas, with the exceptions noted below, starting March 18, until further notice. These exceptions include: Labor and Delivery: limitation of one support person who may stay overnight; Mom and Baby/Post-Partum: one support person who may stay overnight; NICU: one support person who may stay overnight; Emergency Department: Patients are limited to one visitor who can stay in the Emergency Department but may not accompany the patient once taken to the inpatient unit who are subject to screening upon arrival at the hospital. If the visitor leaves the Emergency Department, they may not return; Compassionate Care/End-of-life situations. In those cases, visitors will be limited to a specific room only. *Reminder for OB patient’s families: when picking up mothers and/or newborns, please secure someone to watch older children, since they are not able to visit the hospital.

All exception visitors are subject to screening upon arrival at the hospital. They will be required to use hand-sanitizing gel (or handwashing) upon entering the facility as well as entering and exiting a patient room. The hospital encourages family/friends to continue to call, use FaceTime or Skype patients during this time. Please visit manateememorial.com and click on Health Alert: Important Coronavirus Update for additional information or follow Manatee Memorial’s Facebook. 

[Motor Vehicle Services]  Sarasota County Tax Collector Reduces DMV Services; Extends Deadlines for Licenses

The Sarasota County Tax Collector serves 1,400 customers a day. In order to protect customers and staff from the spread of COVID-19 and follow the CDC guidelines, some in-person services are being restricted. According to Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates, “After a great deal of careful consideration, and with guidance from the Governor’s Office, the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, and our partners in government, we are temporarily changing services available in our offices.” Effective immediately, and until further notice, most motor vehicles, driver’s licenses, and tax transactions must be completed online. Driver’s license road tests and learner’s permit tests are suspended. Phone operators are available at 941-861-8300 to assist customers who need help completing their online transactions or who do not have access to the internet. Deadlines have been extended for anyone with a driver’s license, commercial driver’s license (CDL) or ID card expiring between March 16th and April 15th. These licenses will be valid an additional 30 days and renewals during that period will not have delinquent fees charged. Vehicle registrations, due on the owner’s birthday, and 2019 tax payments due by March 31st, can be paid online or through the mail.

While offices hours and days open are subject to change, Tax Collector Service Centers will remain open for transactions that require an office visit. These include: title transfers and duplicate title applications, licenses for new residents, CDL testing, and certain medical driver testing. Customers should check SarasotaTaxCollector.com for updates related to transactions, office hours and days open before coming into an office. 

[Small Business]  The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Member Update

The Greater Sarasota Chamber is providing access to resources members may need during this time where normal business operations are being adversely impacted. This situation is fluid and the Chamber will continue avidly communicating with its members, as they receive the latest updates from federal, state and local agencies, as well as the CDC. Meanwhile, many member businesses are undergoing operational changes in order to safeguard their staff and customers' safety. Likewise, the Chamber is adapting our procedures to ensure the safety of its team as well as to continue with its mission of connecting, promoting, supporting our members. As you share updates on your business to your social media platforms, please tag @greatersarasotachamber. The Chamber wants to help your organization as best they can during this time. For more information or questions, please contact Brittany Lamont at blamont@sarasotachamber.com. 

[Tourism]  Visit Sarasota County Closes Visitor Centers, Boosts Virtual Support

Following the lead of federal, state and county governments, Visit Sarasota County (VSC) has decided to close its three Visitor Centers, located at SRQ Airport, downtown Sarasota, and Venice, in order to best protect visitors, volunteers and staff. This decision is in effect until March 31, 2020, at the earliest. During this time, VSC has ensured there are ways people can communicate during this time to ask visitor information questions: Visitors can email VSC at Info@VisitSarasota.com or call 941-706-1253. Voicemails are being checked often and calls will be returned as soon as possible with the hours being Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm, and Saturday 10am – 2pm. Visitors can also comment and ask questions via VSC’s social media profile pages on FacebookInstagram and TwitterVSC is referring COVID-19 specific questions directly to the experts, the CDC and Florida Department of Health. For details on those organizations, visit VisitSarasota.com and click on the "Travel Alerts" tab. 

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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