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Nassau County School Board votes to push start date to Aug. 24

Plan to reopen schools approved during Thursday night meeting

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – A plan to reopen schools in Nassau County was approved during a meeting of board leaders Thursday night.

The decision included a revised school calendar making Aug. 24 the first day of school. Superintendent Kathy Burns has said she was in favor of delaying the start of school to make sure the district has everything needed for a safe return.

“This is a global event. It is unpredictable and rapidly changing life as we know it. There are so many challenges, but I look at those as opportunities to do better,” Burns said.

READ: Nassau County information on COVID-19

The reopening plan includes three options for Nassau County students:

  • Return kids to the classroom full time (Option 1)
  • Participate in school-based distance learning (Option 2)
  • Enroll in virtual learning (Option 3)

Parents have until July 29 to submit their choice. For more specifics on the choices, go to page 9-11 of the 16-page reopening plan: click here.

According to Burns, out of 11,876 students, about 10,000 families have chosen the option to return to class so far. Around 850 families have chosen school-based distance learning, and the remainder have chosen virtual learning from Nassau Virtual School. A few hundred families still hadn’t submitted responses.

RELATED: Nassau County’s back-to-school plan includes 3 options

In the re-opening plan, the Nassau County school district says schools will use a combination of self-screening and observational screening protocols for staff and students. It said it will communicate with parents about screening students before coming to school, adding the school may take the temperature of students on a random basis or if they believe someone is sick.

Confirmed cases

The plan also includes how the district will handle a confirmed COVID-19 case. Nassau Schools says the first step is to notify the Health Department, that way contact tracing can begin. If its an employee, they will not return until they are cleared and has a note from the health department or physician.

A letter will be sent home with all students who had close contact. A decision will then be made on how long they will need to be in quarantine.

If a student is positive, parents will need to contact the school principal and if its an employee, their supervisor.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, will be isolated from school. It will then determine what areas of the school will be cleaned and disinfected.

The County Health Department will conduct contact tracing. It will notify direct contacts of their possible exposure and provide instructions. Those who test positive for the virus will not be identified to the school community at large but will be named to the Health Department.

As soon as the school becomes aware of a case, the custodial department will be told so crews can begin disinfecting, after a 24-hour wait.

Also in the plan, Nassau Schools said under current attendance policy students get 15 days either excused or unexcused, but COVID-19 related absences will not count toward those 15 days.

Face coverings

The district made a clarification in its reopening plan, using “face coverings” in place of the word masks. That’s because there are three options that people can wear to cover their face on campus: a mask, a plastic shield, or a neck bandanna.

Parents are encouraged to provide their students with their own face coverings. However, the district will provide face coverings for students who do not have them.

All district staff will have to wear face coverings at all times.

  • Elementary students are required to wear a face-covering while walking in hallways, riding the bus, waiting in line for lunch, and when working in small groups.
  • Secondary students are required to wear face coverings when they are not able to be 6 feet from others, the transition to class in hallways, in large common areas, riding the bus, and are in line in the cafeteria area.
  • All students can remove them during outdoor activities, at their desks and while seated for lunch.

When students are riding the bus, they will be required to wear a face covering. A front and back window will be open on buses for positive fresh air circulation.

Social distancing and sanitizing

The plan said while the 6-feet rule will not be possible inside classrooms, desks will be arranged to allow for as much distance as possible. High touched, traffic surfaces and areas will be cleaned, sanitized and disinfected daily. Hand sanitizer will be made available. Hallway traffic will be one way with arrows on the floor. Hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the buildings. Restrooms will be cleaned multiple times a day. Nassau Schools said frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer --which will be available in classrooms will be emphasized.

The district said in the cafeteria, a grab-and-go method will be used for breakfast.

All food service employees will be pre-screened and are required to wear a mask and gloves. There will be no-self-service bars or shared utensils. Cutlery will be pre-packaged and trays will be disposable. The district is encouraging pre-payments as cash won’t be handled by food service staff. All parent visits to have lunch with their children will be suspended until further notice.

All visits to the clinic to see the school nurse will now be scheduled. There will be extra training for staff. Clinic Staff must wear a mask or face shield and gloves when interacting with others.

The district also lists its cleaning protocols. They include:

  • Classrooms will be sanitized every day
  • There will be hand sanitizer in each classroom
  • All furniture will be spaced out as much as possible
  • Students will not share materials

Visitors

Volunteers and visitors will have limited access. Anyone entering campus will be escorted to their destination and will complete the COVID-19 questionnaire, wear a face covering, and use hand sanitizer.

PreK– 5 parents can walk their students to the door of their classroom for the first two weeks if they follow the rules above and leave immediately after.

Campus opening times for school are being adjusted as needed to minimize the number of students arriving on campus before school starts.

At dismissal, there will be supervision to maintain the flow of traffic and reduce gatherings. Parents who are picking up students should remain in the cars.

Reaction

Teachers and staff at the meeting voiced concern, saying they’d like to see more safety measures.

“How many of you are going to be at any of these funerals that your decision is going to cause if we go back face-to-face? And my second question, are we just a data number? Are we just data to you?” said Jana Lee, a Nassau County teacher.

Members of the Nassau Teachers Association spoke during the meeting, including Jamie Vinneau, the association president.

“With teachers, I have gotten numerous emails that the only information they have got has come from NTA and what we have learned. I really hope and pray that the communication gets better between our district leaders and our school administration,” Vinneau said.

Speakers also worried for the safety of bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians.

“If we’re working and we catch COVID from either a fellow employee -- to me it’s not fair for us to have to use our sick leave,” said Marian Phillips of the Nassau Education Support Personnel Association. “I do know that we have the Families First Coronavirus Act, what I’m hoping for is that the Heroes Act will be passed so that more leave time can be addressed, and the PPE can be purchased.”

The board said it’s working on a plan for sick leave.


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