Facing The Fall: Later start dates, required masks become the norm for school districts

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (Charlie Neibergall, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“It’s a fluid situation.”

That’s been the favorite phrase for school leaders over the past month as they work to come up with COVID-19 safety precautions ahead of the upcoming school year. While it has become almost cliché, it certainly rings true.

Just a few weeks ago schools were still planning to open on time and make wearing a mask optional for most students. That’s all changed now.

Most large school districts in the area now have standing mandatory mask orders for students and teachers and school start dates have been pushed back weeks as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the state continue to rise.

Clay County on Tuesday night became the latest district to change its start date and require face coverings for students in grades 3-12.

It’s probably safe to assume there will be more changes on the way.


Coming up tomorrow, Duval County education leaders will join News4Jax for a virtual forum to talk about the reopening plan and answer questions.

The Facing The Fall Virtual Town Hall is scheduled for 11 a.m. and will be hosted by anchor Bruce Hamilton and education reporter Joe McLean.

Our education team will field questions from the public and bring them to those in charge of making decisions. You can begin to leave your questions at the link at the bottom of this newsletter.

Now, let’s check out the latest education developments:

Changes in Approved Clay County School Plan

Clay County School Board pushes start date, requires most students wear masks

Superintendent Dr. David Broskie told News4Jax the delay in start date will give the district more time to prepare and extra time for teachers to train, calling it a wise move.

Duval County School Board Chairman Warren Jones. (News4Jax)

All-virtual start to school year ‘unfeasible,’ DCPS board chairman says

As the teachers and parents continue to call for the Duval County school district to move fully online to start the school year, a school board member said it’s not possible.

This photo was provided by the St. Johns County School District and shows on of the desk partitions meant to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy: St. Johns County School District)

St. Johns County shortens spring break to adapt to new school start date

After voting to push back the school start date three weeks, the St. Johns County School District had to adjust its school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year.

Bradford County students have option to watch in-person classes from home

Bradford County school board votes down using web cameras in classrooms

After an outcry from teachers, the Bradford County School Board voted against placing web cameras in classrooms for students who are learning at home.

UNF health safety app

UNF’s updated ‘Safe Ospreys’ app has self-screening feature for students

Despite the state’s college faculty union calling for campuses to stay closed during the fall amid the pandemic, many schools are set to resume classes on Aug. 17.

More from Florida and around the country

Florida high school grads asked to quarantine after COVID-19 case reported at graduation

Nearly 300 recent Bayside High School graduates and their guests have been advised to quarantine after health officials said an attendee at Saturday’s commencement ceremony had COVID-19, a school district representative said.

CDC director concedes schools in ‘hot spots’ face tougher call on reopening

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there should be exceptions for “hot spots,” and he used a metric that would include parts of at least 33 states, including Florida, the Washington Post reports.

More than 6,300 coronavirus cases have been linked to U.S. colleges

A New York Times survey of every public four-year college in the country found that at least 6,300 cases have been tied to 270 colleges since the pandemic began, including 14 cases at Florida State College at Jacksonville and 217 cases at the University of Florida. The University of Central Florida has one of the worst outbreaks in the nation, according to the survey, with 438 reported cases.

What are your back-to-school questions?

What are your burning questions as students prepare to return to school in August? Follow this link to submit a question and the News4Jax Education Team will work to get the answer.

Meet the Facing the Fall team

The News4Jax education team is led by reporter Joe McLean (jmclean@wjxt.com) who has nearly 10 years of experience as an investigative journalist covering everything from education to politics in Missouri.

Joining him is digital reporter Travis Gibson (tgibson@wjxt.com), a Jacksonville native and former high school sports reporter who has written about race issues and allegations of abuse on university and high school campuses across the country.

The goal is to have our reporters bring your questions and concerns to education leaders and hold them accountable. You’ll see their work online throughout the school year.

Facing the Fall is our newsletter covering Jacksonville’s return to school. Interested? You’re already signed up. Our team of reporters will send updates to keep you informed. Not interested? Unsubscribe here.

About the Author:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.