FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Nassau County teachers and employees continue to express their concerns with returning to campus.
Thursday evening was the last Nassau County School Board meeting before children return to class in less than two weeks.
Friday is the first official day of pre-planning for Nassau County teachers. It’s coming down to the wire, but for some teachers, they’ve gotten rid of the wire altogether.
During the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, one teacher announced her resignation. It was the last public comment of the night and it was read by one of the School Board members, as it was submitted online.
“I would not have resigned had it not been for the district’s handling of the pandemic,” said School Board member Russell Johnson, who was reading teacher Sara Larrimore’s resignation explanation out loud.
Larrimore said the school district needs to take a stand and be clear and concise with their guidelines and factor in school closures due to COVID-19 into those plans.
“Set real numbers for infection rates and triggers for school closures. Make masks mandatory with clear repercussions for all persons in every campus. Make social distancing happen, not just to the best of your ability,” Johnson said, reading Larrimore’s public comment.
School Board members approved a reopening plan on July 23. The 16-page plan lays out sanitation and social distancing procedures, where and what face coverings are allowed and what will happen if there is a positive COVID-19 case on campus. It does not address a plan for school closures due to COVID-19.
During public comment Thursday, a few educators and support personnel also addressed the School Board. The School Board also heard from Marian Phillips, president of the Nassau Educational Support Personnel Association.
“We have some valuable employees here, and if our employees aren’t working, it’s just going to deteriorate our economy that much more,” Phillips said.
Phillips asked the School Board to consider options for non-instructional district employees who may have to take a leave of absence due to COVID-19. She suggested allowing them to help with virtual instruction.
“The employees who are having to do this, to take the leave, that they be allowed to work from home on a computer and help these students so they can excel in their learning,” Phillips said.
Nassau County Assistant Superintendent Mark Durham told News4Jax after the meeting that they’re taking NESPA’s suggestion into consideration, but anything would be on a case-by-case basis.
This week, Nassau County teachers started their Canvas training. It’s the online platform that’s supposed to provide a more fluid and seamless transition into virtual learning. Teachers can incorporate their existing Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom into Canvas.
Nassau County Superintendent Dr. Kathy Burns said at the end of the meeting that a lot of hard work has gone into preparing for children to come back and said she met with the health department this week to work on some additional safety protocols.
During Thursday’s meeting, School Board members also voted to add additional wording into its safety and security policies.
In an earlier version of this story, News4Jax reported the School Board would vote on whether Nassau County will replace its existing department of student safety with a school police department, which the district actually approved a couple of years ago.
“In our middle and high schools, we still use SROs from Nassau County Sherriff’s Office and Fernandina Beach Police Department,” Durham said. “Our police department provides officers at our nine elementary schools. Our decision to have a police department came after the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas legislation requiring trained, armed security personnel on all public school campuses in the state of Florida.”
Nassau County students and return to school on Aug. 24.