Q: What are the plans going forward for the potential of continuing school-based distance learning?
A: Recently, we asked parents if they wanted to extend their child’s distance learning for another quarter. This decision was due in mid October. We asked parents to let this be their decision for the full second quarter, rather than going back and forth, as this is hard for teachers. As of today [interview date of Oct. 14], we have 20 percent of our students enrolled as distance learners and 80 percent in brick and mortar schools.
Q: What about the possibility of school-based distance learning for the second semester?
A: For this, we are awaiting guidance from the governor’s office. Typically, the school district is only funded for brick and mortar students; an exception in the form of an emergency order was made to fund distance learners until Dec. 31. If this exception is not extended, we will have to closely examine our finances to determine if it is feasible to continue distance learning with losing the approximately $5,300 per student funding. If the governor does extend the emergency order that provides the funding, the school board would have the option to keep distance learning in place without having to worry about losing the per student funding. We would consider this, as well as closely examine how our students are performing academically, to make a determination for the second semester.
Q: Can you give some insight into the decision to have even earlier releases from school on Wednesdays that began in mid October?
A: The school board was searching for ways to give teachers extra planning time, especially for those teaching on dual platforms. We examined our balance of instructional minutes and found we could afford to give teachers an additional 50 minutes each Wednesday until Dec. 31 and so we did. Another benefit of this is that it gives us an additional block of time for deep cleaning of classrooms.
Q: What is the latest on the schools under construction?
A: Zoning for High School HHH has been finalized as of late September. As for K-8 School MM in Nocatee, we presented two zoning plans, now on the school district website, and are getting public input at this time. Interested parties can contact any of the school board members or Nicole Cubbedge and we will be happy to consider suggestions prior to finalizing the zoning at the Dec. 8 board meeting.
Also, on Oct. 13, we finalized the bond purchase to build High School III inside the Beachwalk community off of County Road 210. It will look similar to High School HHH and be open in time for the 2022 – 2023 school year. We hope that construction will start the beginning of 2021.
Worth noting is that the St. Johns County School District has never failed to grow; we even grew 4 percent during the recession. During this time of COVID, we are one of only two districts in the state that are growing.
Q: Do you have anything else to share with District 1?
A: At our school board meeting on Nov. 10, we will be saying goodbye to veteran school board member Tommy Allen, who has served for 32 years. We are sad to see him go. We will welcome new school board member Tony Coleman at our Nov. 17 meeting, when we reorganize.
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