Duval School Board votes in favor of providing PPE to all students, staff

Duval County Public Schools surveying parents on fall reopening plans

The Duval County School Board held a virtual meeting Tuesday to discuss the plan to reopen and make sure they're prepared. One topic of discussion: PPE.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School Board voted Tuesday evening in favor of the purchase of 143,000 reusable face masks to distribute to all students, faculty and staff in the district.

The vote was 6-1. The mask policy will next be reviewed by the school board after Dr. Diana Greene -- the school superintendent -- and staff have reviewed CDC protocols for returning students to face to face instruction.

A spokesperson for the school district noted that the board voted on a recommendation to purchase the masks, but not to require students and staff to wear them. The spokesperson added that no policy or decisions have been made regarding that or the reopening of schools.

The order would cost the district $300,400 from funds which would be drawn from the 10740 special fund “used to categorize expenditures specifically addressing COVID-19 costs.”

The breakdown of what will be purchased for each subgroup of students and staff can be seen in the table below which was included in the board’s agenda.

Duval County School Board members are set to vote on the purchase of more than 140,000 face masks at their meeting scheduled for May 19, 2020. (Courtesy: Duval County Public Schools)

“We are going to encounter many challenges. Yes, they’re going to send their children to school, and at the beginning of the day they don’t have a fever but come lunchtime they do,” Greene said during the meeting. “We better be prepared to isolate that student and give that student every opportunity to be protected and the people who have to serve that student.”

What will school look like this fall?

Public school leaders in Duval County want to hear from parents before finalizing their reopening strategy for Fall 2020, after the recent school year was abruptly and profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With Florida, Jacksonville, and the entire nation beginning to reopen, understanding how the pandemic situation changes over the next few weeks will be very important to the decisions we make for the opening of school next year, which is planned for Aug. 10, 2020,” a district spokesperson said in a letter to parents Tuesday. “We are considering multiple possibilities for next year, and we want to hear caregivers’ thoughts on those.”

SEE: Duval County School Board survey

The survey first asks participants to identify their relation to the school district, whether they be a student, parent, teacher, staff, etc.

Participants are then asked to share, on a scale of one to 10, their comfort level with a variety of possible situations that the district might employ for the fall semester. “One” is considered uncomfortable and “10” indicates complete comfort.

  • Your child returns with all students on Aug. 10 to a regular full-time schedule, as usual.
  • Your child returns with all students on Aug. 10 to a regular full-time schedule, with personal protection equipment (face masks, face shields) and handwashing protocols.
  • Your child returns with all students after Labor Day with personal protection equipment and handwashing protocols.
  • Your child returns with some students beginning on Aug. 10 on a staggered schedule, attending school only on designated days to allow for social distancing, with no online component.
  • Your child continues learning online when school resumes on Aug. 10 until it is safe to return to brick and mortar schools.
  • Your child returns to school on Aug. 10 using a combination of face-to-face and online learning throughout the week to ensure social distancing in brick and mortar schools.
  • Your child completely withdraws from his or her normal brick-and-mortar school and enrolls for the entire school year in a full-time virtual school option, such as Duval Virtual Instruction Academy.

The survey then asks participants to weigh in on various increased safety measures or strategies that the district might employ once in-person classes resume.

Parents are asked to grade their interest in the following nine scenarios on a scale of one to five stars, with the number of stars.

  • Frequent hand-washing
  • Employees wearing face shields
  • Employees and students wearing facial coverings
  • Social-distancing of students
  • Physical barriers to separate people
  • Staggered days, so only a portion of students are in the school at any given time
  • Delaying the start of the school year
  • Students remain enrolled in brick-and-mortar school but learn completely online through Duval HomeRoom
  • Going to a completely online platform, such as Duval Virtual Instruction Academy

Parents were instructed to complete the survey “this week" but officials did not cite a date when it will close.

“It is premature to say how school will be conducted when students and teachers return in the fall," the email said. “As we get guidance from health authorities, thoughts from all of our stakeholder groups, and more information regarding how the pandemic responds to reopening of the community, we will be prepared to make and support the option that is both best for learning and best for the health of our students, our employees, and our community.”

About the Authors:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.