Could this St. Johns County school be the first to shut down due to COVID-19?

There are more than 40 schools in St. Johns County, but when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases in classrooms, one school has more than the rest — Mill Creek Academy.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – There are more than 40 schools in St. Johns County, but when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases in classrooms, one school has more than the rest — Mill Creek Academy.

The K-8 school near World Golf Village has reported a total of 64 COVID-19 cases involving students and a total of 246 students have been quarantined since the start of school less than three weeks ago. Nearby Pacetti Bay Middle School has the second most student cases in the county with 52.

As of Thursday, no St. Johns County schools have been forced to shut down and move to virtual learning, but Mill Creek Academy may be in danger of becoming the first.

One parent of two Mill Creek Academy students said something needs to be done now.

“I think the school needs to shut down. You know, at least for a week, if not two, to deep clean, disinfect get the kids who are sick healthy, get the kids who are quarantined through,” the parent, who asked to remain anonymous, told News4Jax on Thursday. “Just doing nothing is not going to solve this.”

A St. Johns County School District spokesperson said Thursday morning there are no plans to shut the school down. The spokesperson also said there is no district threshold that would trigger a school shut down and each school assesses its cases individually.

That’s different from Duval County Public Schools where if 20% of a school has possible exposure to the virus, the school transitions to virtual learning. DCPS moved Ed White High School to virtual learning on Wednesday after 50 total cases were reported at the school. At Mill Creek, a much smaller school, there are a total of 69 cases, including staff, as of Wednesday.

Some parents have taken the task of reporting COVID-19 cases at Mill Creek into their own hands.

The “Mill Creek Academy self-reporting for parents” Facebook group has 260 members who keep each other updated on coronavirus cases at the school.

“Just wanted to let everyone know 2 out of 3 of my kids tested positive today,” one group member posted Thursday.

The parent who spoke to News4Jax said she became a member of the group because the contact tracing being done by the Florida Department of Health was not timely.

“The school can’t do anything about it until they hear from the Department of Health,” the parent said. “By the time that it takes to figure out your kid is sick, get them scheduled to get the test, get the test results back, get those reported to the Department of Health, I know the Department of Health is reporting that to the school, to finally let other parents know, it just takes way too long.”

Another parent who is part of the group and also didn’t want to be identified said they don’t think shutting the school down would necessarily solve the problem, but did say they would like to see more protocols like mask mandates and desk shields in all classrooms put in place.

The parents are both among those who are calling for an emergency school board meeting in St. Johns County to reconsider a mask mandate for students. Last week, the superintendent put in place a 30-day mandate for all 5,000 school district employees but the district decided against that for students in the face of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates, a move that some St. Johns County parents support. A judge declared that order unconstitutional, but the state is appealing the ruling.

A school board workshop is planned for next week but as of Thursday masks are not on the agenda.

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