Q: As of the date of this interview, Sept. 15, how has the starting of school impacted COVID — and vice versa?
A: As of 4 p.m. on Sept. 14 (most recent data as of the interview), we had four employees who tested positive and 34 employees quarantined. We had 20 students test positive and 472 students quarantined.

Q: How do you determine who gets quarantined?
A: We are following the protocols determined by the Department of Health as well as the CDC. If a student tests positive, we notify only those who were closer than six feet to that student for more than 15 minutes with no protection. So, it is unlikely that an entire class would be quarantined. The school district figures out who meets these requirements and then the Department of Health is actually who contacts the affected students’ parents, because we are dealing not only with HIPAA, but also FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) privacy laws.

Q: What else can you tell us about the beginning of the 2020 – 21 school year?
A: Things are going really well so far. Students are delighted to be back in school and teachers are glad to be back in a routine with their students. We’ve had some technical kinks as might be expected, but we are working them out. The biggest thing is the stress on our hard working teachers who are trying to teach on two platforms. The district is trying to take everything else off their plate except for teaching in an effort to support them.

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I’m so grateful for our students obeying the rules regarding wearing masks and distancing. When I go into our schools, I see everyone wearing their masks; there have been no issues and no instances of invoking the superintendent’s emergency ruling, which states that students can be required to take distance learning if they refuse to wear a mask.

Also, we had our first football games last Friday night. We limited attendance to 30 percent of the stadium and first priority was given to parents of the football players, the band, and the cheerleaders. Again, everyone obeyed the rules and we had no issues.

Q: Do you know the student counts for the first 10 days?

A: As of 10 days of school opening, we have 32,629 students attending school in person (“brick and mortar”) and 10,098 students enrolled in distance learning. We have had movement back and forth between the brick and mortar option and the distance learning option, but the biggest movement has been from distance learning to brick and mortar.

Q: Do you have any updates on the construction of the new schools?
A: We have agreed to borrow up to $80 million to pay for High School “III.” Renderings and plans are in hand and we are getting ready to move forward with this school. Construction will start hopefully around the end of 2020/beginning of 2021. 

Also, stay tuned, because the zoning meetings for K – 8 School “MM” will be announced soon.

Q: Do you have anything else to share with District 1?
A: I have a food service update. Due to a federal government subsidy, free breakfast and lunch is now available to all of our students at all schools. So, the district is not charging any student for regular menu items (a la carte items such as ice cream are not included).

Q: How can our readers contact you?

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

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