St. Johns County may check temperatures, require masks on buses when students return

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

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County parents have less than two weeks to decide where and how students will resume their educations when the 2020-2021 school year starts this fall.

The St. Johns County School District on Thursday presented four options to parents, which include school-based brick and mortar learning and school-based distance learning. Parents also have the opportunity to enroll students in St. Johns Virtual School, a fulltime virtual school, or home education.

When, and if, students do return to campuses on Aug. 10 and there is still moderate spread of COVID-19 in the community, the district is planning to require those riding the bus to wear masks and check the temperatures of students before school, according to a draft plan on the district’s website.

Under its current reopening plan, masks will be required on bus routes where social distancing is not possible and during dismissal for elementary students. Masks will also be strongly encouraged in classrooms and during transitions for all students.

The district will provide masks, and frequent visual and verbal hygiene reminders will be given, the district said.

St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson said Wednesday in a letter to parents that the issue of whether or not to mandate face coverings when school resumes in August has been one of the most challenging problems facing the district.

“We understand the benefit of facial masks, but also the challenge this poses to young children and the wearing of masks for extended periods of time,” Forson wrote in a letter to parents.

Student interaction for elementary students will be limited to the students assigned to their class cohort if there is still moderate spread in August. For students in 6th-12th grades, there would be a reduced student presence on campus with staggered schedules. The student population would be divided into two groups: Group A attends Mondays and Thursdays, and Group B attends Tuesdays and Fridays. All students are distance learners on Wednesdays.

Teachers will work on campus every day.

Parents must select a learning plan by July 15.

On August 1, 2020, a decision will be made on how schools will proceed under Option 1, School-Based Brick & Mortar, based on the level of community spread.

St. Johns County School District's flow chart for possible scenarios this fall. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

If there is low spread of the novel coronavirus, school will return to normal, but if there is substantial spread, the district plans to close schools again and go back to distance learning at all levels.

To determine the level of community spread, the district said it would:

  • Use the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard for current numbers of cases at the state and local level
  • Recommendations from the local Department of Health
  • Recommendations from Flagler Health+
  • Recommendations from St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center

More details are available on the district’s website.

Parents who want school-based distance learning are asked to complete a registration form. Parents interested in St. Johns Virtual School can contact the school and those interested in home education can contact the district’s Guidance & Choice Department to enroll.

Forson hinted last week that if the current trend of increasing COVID-19 cases in the state continues, the district would likely have to start the school year with the most restrictive measures, meaning full-time distance learning.

The School Board and superintendent will meet again on July 7 for a workshop and are expected to finalize reopening plans during a School Board meeting on July 14.

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