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The South Florida Roundup

Public School Staffing Shortages, HUD's Flood-Prone Homes, And A Surfside Update

Broward Bus
Broward County Public Schools
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Public schools are facing staffing shortages throughout South Florida, as the return of children to the classroom coincides with a surge of the coronavirus.

The mask debate for students is ongoing. And now, staffing shortages are affecting everything from transportation to lunch rooms.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Our journalists are continuing to work hard to keep you informed across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

The Palm Beach Post reported the first week of classes in a district this year saw a shortage of teachers and substitute teachers. In an effort to retain substitute teachers and bus drivers, districts are increasing pay.

Sonja Isger covers education for the Palm Beach Post and says there are several things that led to that shortage.

“I think the first thing we got to remember is that in this pandemic, we're seeing staffing shortages that are happening across industries. And then, in addition to that, I think especially in Florida, what you saw was a heightened concern about health issues driven by the more contagious delta variant and the prospect of returning to classrooms this fall for the first time that were fully populated by students," said Isger. "This is the first time that every student has been asked to return to the classroom, so I think health concerns were probably key in driving bigger numbers and bigger shortages.”

Scott Travis covers education for the Sun Sentinel and said bus shortages are major problems as well in our region, noting that school districts have had to double the routes for a lot of drivers.

“That has been a real mess this year, especially in the first few weeks of the school year," said Travis. "They had kids that were waiting for hours for buses sometimes, and then they would get to their bus stop and then the bus driver wouldn't be there at the normal time. And then they end up being an hour too late for school or they wouldn't get home until seven o'clock at night.”

NPR's HUD Investigation

An NPR investigation has found that the federal housing department disproportionately sells homes to people in areas prone to flooding, many of whom were unaware that they were purchasing these properties in flood zones.

While buying a home in a flood zone may seem unappealing to some, Roger Pardo, a broker registered to sell U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development houses, told WLRN the houses sell pretty quickly.

“A lot of time that we already have 10 clients here and they’re agent is telling us I already have an offer at 20, 30 or 40 percent higher than the asking price and all cash,” Pardo said.

WLRN reporters Danny Rivero and Jenny Staletovich, looked into HUD properties in flood zones located in South Florida. More than 230 are located in South Florida.

“So HUD basically ensures government backed loans, so if you get a loan from [Veterans Affairs], from Fannie Mae, HUD provides the insurance to the mortgage company,” said Staletovich. “If your home goes into foreclosure, then the bank can either sell it or they can go back to HUD to claim their insurance. And then HUD now owns that property.”

Rivero added that there were several reasons why NPR wanted to look specifically into HUD homes in flood zones.

“NPR was interested in this because, it's not a much talked about or publicized program, but there are thousands and tens of thousands, actually, of homes across the country that fall into this,” Rivero said.

Update On Champlain Towers South Building In Surfside

It's been nearly three months since the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside.

At a town commission meeting this week, dozens of people came to urge leaders to consider moving the town’s community center to where the collapsed condo building was — or to keep the center where it currently stands. There is opposition to the proposal as well.

Commissioners said they’re opposed to moving the community center out of the heart of town. Some suggested getting state or federal governments to buy the property and then build a memorial on it. And the mayor believes the plan won’t move forward without a referendum, which seems unlikely to happen.

The commission and residents are exploring alternative places to build a memorial for the 98 people who lost their lives in June.

WLRN’s Veronica Zaragovia joined the program to discuss the uncertain future of the Champlain Towers South Condo collapse site.

“One Surfside resident who had a unit in the Champlain Tower South suggested using a park on 88th Street,” said Zaragovia. "Miami Beach has offered park space as well, but the overwhelming opinion that I hear over and over is the need to have a memorial on that land where people died.”

University of Miami Fans Saved A Cat From A Scary Fall

The furry feline fell but was caught by an American flag held by football fans during the University of Miami's home game at Hard Rock Stadium, this past Saturday.

Isabella Didio is the editor-in-chief of the Miami Hurricane, the student newspaper for the University of Miami.

She was in the stadium, just a few sections over when it happened, and wrote about the viral kitty rescue.

“It's just so fitting that they saved the cat using an American flag. And honestly, when they held up the cat, everyone was cheering," said Didio. "It just felt like everyone in the stadium was united and together, so it was kind of fitting.”

Wilkine Brutus is a multimedia journalist for WLRN, South Florida's NPR, and a member of Washington Post/Poynter Institute’s 2019 Leadership Academy. A former Digital Reporter for The Palm Beach Post, Brutus produces enterprise stories on topics surrounding people, community innovation, entrepreneurship, art, culture, and current affairs.