Clay County School Board debates how to safely reopen schools

Question of whether to require masks was a hot-button issue

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The Clay County School Board debated for hours Tuesday how to safely reopen schools.

From a mask mandate to pushing the date back to start classes, School Board members expressed their own concerns and took public comment.

“We need to protect our students. It’s just not safe in our current situation to go back to schools full time without the precautions,” teacher Lance Duff told News4Jax.

The question of whether to require masks was especially a hot-button issue at Tuesday’s School Board workshop. Dozens of people showed up at the workshop, asking the school district to mandate face masks in school to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and masks dominated about an hour of the discussion.

“We all have very strong opinions about what’s best for us and our families, and to take that freedom away from another person to make their own responsible choices -- if we can give guidance and strongly urge and educate -- but I have a hard time forcing it,” one School Board member said.

“Please, please, please don’t say: ‘We can’t do that. It’s too hard. It’s too political. We can’t enforce it. It would be a nightmare.' Just, let’s figure out how to make it work. We can do it,” one person told the School Board.

The district is looking at four options for student learning during the fall semester: Traditional brick and mortar (all grades), Clay Virtual Academy (grades K-12), One Clay Online (grades K-6) and blended learning (grades 7-12).

Parents and students can make their choice on the Clay County School District’s website. It must be made by Thursday, July 16. Should a selection not be made, the student will automatically be enrolled in the traditional brick and mortar option.

The School Board will hold a workshop at 3 p.m. July 28 and its next meeting will be at 5 p.m. that day.

Brick and mortar (All grades)

The school day follows the standard bell times and schedule that includes all core classes. It’s essentially a return to the traditional school environment, with several changes involving health and safety precautions that were created following protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students at the elementary level will spend time on campus with their classmates in the classroom, cafeteria, media center and the playground. Interaction with students from other classes “will be limited to the greatest extent possible.”

Each school for students at the secondary level will have customized plans to discourage large gatherings in common areas. The number of students allowed in the cafeteria, media center and gyms will be reduced. Extracurricular activities will resume with new health and safety protocols.

Clay Virtual Academy (K-12)

This is a full-time virtual school that the district says is ideal for students who need a flexible daily schedule. Students will often work on assignments during non-traditional hours and maintain contact with the teacher and classmates using web-based class sessions, emails, texts and phone calls.

Enrollment requires a semester-long or year-long commitment. Information about CVA and enrollment can be found on its website. To register, a registration will need to be filled out.

OneClay Online (K-6)

This is designed for families with students who would like to stay in their enrolled school but do not yet feel comfortable returning to the brick and mortar environment.

Instruction is provided remotely and students will have access to teachers during their typical school day hours. OneClay Online is said to be “more rigorous and time intensive” than fourth quarter distance learning from spring.

Students can register for OneClay Online distance learning by filling out a registration form, which must be completed by July 16.

Blended learning (7-12)

The fourth option allows students to learn select courses in a brick and mortar environment and take other courses through Clay Virtual Academy.

For example, a student may attend their zoned brick and mortar school four periods a day and two periods of the day at home through Clay Virtual Academy. Student schedules will be based on course availability.

Students who choose this option will need to work with their school-based guidance counselor in order to determine the courses and daily schedule that are available in each school.

Clay County Public Schools release its reopening plans

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