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Reopening plan taking shape for St. Johns County Schools

Proposed plan includes three-tiered plan to account for COVID-19 severity

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Johns County School District is working to finalize its plan for reopening school buildings after months of COVID-19 related closure.

On Thursday, district officials held a focus group meeting to float potential ideas on how to safely and effectively resume in-person coursework. One of the ideas involved alphabetically splitting the student population into two groups and staggering their attendance at brick-and-mortar facilities.

“Our purpose with you is to collaborate on ‘what school will look like’ in the fall,” the presentation said. “We will prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff and community with a model that supports academic success.”

A slideshow presentation obtained by News4Jax was shown to the focus group Thursday afternoon and included “a collection of ideas from state and local level leaders.”

The draft was developed using input from parent surveys, internal task force and sub-groups, business leader meetings, small group principal meetings, focus group meetings and a teacher advisory group, according to the presentation.

According to the presentation, the timeline of the St. Johns County School District’s reopening decision was laid out in three phases:

  1. On the week of June 8 -12, the proposed models for consideration were shared with the community
  2. On the week of June 15 -19, the community will be able to provide input on the proposed models via a survey
  3. On the week of June 29 - July 3, families will be asked to inform the district of their intent to return in the fall semester

The proposed reopening plan is divided into three different protocols based on the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic; Low or no spread, minimal-to-moderate spread and substantial spread of the disease.

This chart was featured in a focus group meeting by the St. Johns County School District Thursday, June 11, 2020.
This chart was featured in a focus group meeting by the St. Johns County School District Thursday, June 11, 2020. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

In the event that the virus is in a state of low to no spread, the instructional model would continue inside school buildings fulltime and the elementary schedule would revert to its regular status.

Should the virus undergo minimal to moderate spread, the district will have the option to continue in brick-and-mortar buildings or pivot to distance learning, depending on the severity of the virus’ resurgence. This strategy would also involve limiting interaction between students from different classrooms.

A moderate spread of the virus would also allow the district to implement an alternative attendance model.

“The student population at each school will be divided into two alphabetical groups,” the presentation said. “Group A attends Mondays and Thursdays, Group B attends Tuesdays and Fridays, all students are distance learners on Wednesdays."

Under the A/B model, students from one group would independently work on assignments from home while teachers work on campus with the other group.

If the pandemic demonstrates a substantial spread, the plan allows the option for the district to pivot back to 100% distance learning and closure of all buildings.

Parents also have the ability to apply to enroll their students in St. Johns Virtual School on a semester basis, which would involve a withdrawal from zoned school.

The virtual option is defined in the presentation as “a full-time virtual school that allows flexibility with pace.”

The curriculum in the virtual option doesn’t align to the brick and mortar curriculum, according to the presentation.