Q: Can you give us any insights on the beginning of the new school year?
A: The start of this school year has been challenging, because we are all doing things that are different. The school district is focused on the safety and well being of our students and so we are taking lots of precautions. It’s certainly different from the start of any other school year.

But there’s an energy that has brought everyone together, working to make the best of the situation. We continue to monitor and make improvements each day. Superintendent Forson has been visiting all the schools and sitting in various classrooms — taking his role as instructional leader of our district seriously.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge?
A: Definitely it’s been the teachers having to teach on two platforms: both to students in class and virtually for those students attending distance learning. We have asked teachers not to respond to parents’ questions and emails during the school day so they can focus on teaching. The administration in the schools is working on providing extra resources and support for teachers. In the planning process are possible adjustments to their schedules. We are so grateful for our teachers! They are performing at such a high level despite the challenges.

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Q: Have students been mostly complying with the mask requirement?
A: Yes, kids have been great about wearing their masks. It has now become somewhat routine.

Q: What would you say is the most important thing you’d like readers to know?
A: A big reminder would be: whether you are a student, a parent volunteer, or an employee, do not come to school if you are exhibiting any symptoms of the virus. We want to keep our campuses safe and healthy.

Q: What can you tell us about the contract tracing methods being used?
A: The Department of Health is the subject matter expert on this. We are following all their protocols as well as the CDC. The school district is sharing the responsibility of developing the contact tracing lists and the Department of Health does tracing of positive cases beyond the school day. If we have a student who tests positive, it is actually the Department of Health that will contact any other potentially affected students, because we are dealing not only with HIPAA, but also FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) privacy laws.

Q: Do you have a new school construction update?
A: Construction is moving ahead on schedule for High School HHH and K-8 School MM. Some tilt walls are going up on K-8 School MM. We are really starting to see both schools come together.

Q: Do you have anything else to share with District 4?
A: I’d like to congratulate the recently announced National Merit Semifinalists. We had 16 from Ponte Vedra High School: Gabriella Berardi, Connor Brady, Sophia Chigounis, Finnur Christianson, Christina D’Aquila, Aiden Fong, Sara Garces, Reese Jett, William Mann, Carolina Mechetti, Ashton Monk, Lily Quick, John Schedel, Matthew Shen, Shuangyi Shi, and Corey Udell; and seven from Nease High School: Laura Harrington, Sreenivas Kuntamukkala, Dylan Lukacsa, Colby Millis, Zachary Plevin, Carson Sobolewski, Sreeniketh Vogoti.

Q: How can our readers contact you?

A: They can email me at kelly.barrera@stjohns.k12.fl.us or call me at (904) 547-7510.

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