Q: Can you give an update on the first day of school, which was yesterday, Aug. 20?

A: I spent the first day volunteering at Crown Point Elementary School, mostly helping students find their classrooms. I was amazed at how many students were new to the school. It was a very fun and exciting day, with students, teachers and parents all happy to be coming back. Things went smoothly; students’ temperatures were taken in the car if they rode to school or prior to entering the building if they walked. I also visited Twin Lakes Academy Elementary, Twin Lakes Academy Middle School, and Mandarin Middle School — and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Diana Greene taught third grade on the first day of school at Mandarin’s oldest school, 78-year-old Loretto Elementary.

Q: What was your experience like at the middle schools?
A: The principals at both middle schools commented that the first day back went well. I felt that the sixth graders especially were more at ease due to there being fewer students on campus. This is because middle schools and high schools are utilizing a hybrid learning model, where not all students are on campus at the same time.

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Q: How long will this hybrid learning model be offered?
A: The Duval County Schools positivity rate on the first day of school, per the Duval County Department of Health, was 4.2 percent. The school board’s goal is to watch this trend over the next few weeks. The state approved our plan for the hybrid learning for middle and high schools until Sept. 14, so the board will decide by Sept. 8 if we will ask the state to extend this option for us or if we will need to go to five-day-a-week school. (Elementary schools are presently already going to school all five days.) The good news is that this gives us time to study the trends in our area and see the impact that opening school has had on the positivity rate.

Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the safety precautions being taken?
A: We are requesting that parents take their student’s temperature at home before coming to school. (Their temperature will also be taken at school.) Reasons to stay home include a temperature in excess of 100.4 degrees, a new cough, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell. Since Jacksonville has a city-wide mask mandate, the school district also requires masks to be worn all day in schools.

Q: What can you tell us about the Duval Homeroom learning option?
A: About 70 percent of our students opted to return to school in person and about 30 percent opted to start the year online via Duval Homeroom. Since we’ve staffed based on these numbers, it’s important to note that if your student is registered for Duval Homeroom, it is a nine-week commitment. At the end of the first nine weeks, parents and students can evaluate if they want to continue for another nine weeks or return to in person school. I think one of the neat components of Duval Homeroom is it allows students to remain connected to their home school. 

Q: How can our readers contact you?

A: They can email me at HersheyL@duvalschools.org or call me at (904) 316-3609.

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