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St. Johns County School District wants parents’ help deciding on fall reopening plan

File photo.
File photo.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County students will be expected to wear a mask on their school bus should they return to class in the fall.

Those aren’t the only areas where children in that district will be asked to cover their faces. St. Johns County School District superintendent Tim Forson said one of the most challenging issues this school year is the use of facial coverings. 

He says the district understands the benefit of them but also acknowledges it would be difficult for younger students to wear them for an extended period of time.

That’s why they probably won’t be worn in classrooms, but will be worn elsewhere around campuses.

“We’re making face masks required on buses cause of the inability to social distance and we’re strongly recommending them in areas where we’re going to have difficulty with social distancing,” Forson said.

Those areas where face masks will be strongly encouraged in St. Johns County schools include hallways, as kids walk to and from class, and any other part of the campus where students work in close compact areas.

He says the district is still trying to work out enforcement.

“One of the challenges obviously with that it is children and we certainly don’t want it to move to the level of enforcement and discipline for not having a face mask,” Forson said. “There’s a balancing act we are trying to live within.”

Forson said that the district remains working on how to separate kids during lunch time and arrival and dismissal from school to minimize crowd size. He acknowledged that much of that depends on the level of community spread as we get closer to the start of the school year.

The district’s three-tier approach to reopening schools now depends on feedback from parents, but there is an important deadline to mark on your calendar. If parents do not feel comfortable allowing their student to return to class Aug. 10, virtual school is an option. Parents who elect to enroll them in St. Johns Virtual School need to enroll them by July 10.

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“We’re making face masks required on buses cause of the inability to social distance and we’re strongly recommending them in areas where we’re going to have difficulty with social distancing,” Forson said.

Those areas where face masks will be strongly encouraged in St. Johns County schools include hallways, as kids walk to and from class, and any other part of the campus where students work in close compact areas.

He says the district is still trying to work out enforcement.

“One of the challenges obviously with that it is children and we certainly don’t want it to move to the level of enforcement and discipline for not having a face mask,” Forson said. “There’s a balancing act we are trying to live within.”

Forson said that the district remains working on how to separate kids during lunch time and arrival and dismissal from school to minimize crowd size. He acknowledged that much of that depends on the level of community spread as we get closer to the start of the school year.

The district’s three-tier approach to reopening schools now depends on feedback from parents, but there is an important deadline to mark on your calendar. If parents do not feel comfortable allowing their student to return to class Aug. 10, virtual school is an option. Parents who elect to enroll them in St. Johns Virtual School need to enroll them by July 10.

A Wednesday night letter from Forson reads in part:

“What is certain is that whatever strategies are implemented there will be some parents and staff that are highly satisfied, some that are very disappointed and many that are somewhere in between.”

The district recently laid out several coronavirus scenarios and provided details as to how the district would react to each of them. It included the following:

If the level of community spread is low to no spread: Students can return to in-person instruction.

* If its at minimal to moderate spread: Classes can resume in-person or move to distance learning. Under this plan, one of the ideas is to divide students into two groups alphabetically and stagger the days they attend school in-person.

If there is a risk of substantial spread: The district would considering closing all buildings and switch completely to distance learning.

No matter what scenario comes to fruition, the district is giving parents the option to withdraw from a zoned school and enroll their children in St. Johns Virtual School, which will be reevaluated on a semester basis.

Superintendent Forson said parents will be receiving an additional document today for them to indicate their preferences for the upcoming school year. News4Jax will provide an update when that comes in.


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