More than 500 St. Johns County students have COVID, district reports

St. Johns County, Clay County school districts grappling with staffing issues, union leaders say

The Friday edition of the St. Johns County School District’s COVID-19 report showed 515 students were confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus and 161 were quarantined.

The Friday edition of the St. Johns County School District’s COVID-19 report showed 515 students were confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus and 161 were quarantined.

The same report showed 122 staff members tested positive and 22 others were quarantined.

The numbers aren’t debilitatingly high, nor are they the highest the district has seen during the yearslong pandemic, but St. Johns Education Association president Michelle Dillon said the district’s teachers are still exhausting themselves with the workload.

“We do still run into a substitute shortage,” Dillon said. “Everybody’s pitching in. Teachers are covering other classes. It has not been the return to normal that any of us had hoped for.”

Dillon added that the association’s top priority, second only to safety, is the educational continuity in the classroom and minimizing the disturbance to children’s education. However, she emphasized the importance of patience and understanding from families during a turbulent time.

“They can help by having the utmost patience, not only with our teachers but with our support staff, our paraprofessionals, our secretaries, custodians and bus drivers,” Dillon said. “We’re all in this together.”

In Clay County, the district’s education union president said staff and administrators are banking on the omicron variant’s short life.

“It’s really rough,” said Clay County Education Association president Vicki Kidwell. “Kids and teachers are already stressed. I think they’re just holding it together, just hoping it passes quickly because there isn’t really a plan.”

Kidwell said she is frequently getting calls about staffers testing positive for COVID-19, who then have to be isolated and temporarily replaced in their classroom.

“It’s not really optimal learning, obviously,” Kidwell said. “In many cases, there’s very little instruction going on because you just, you don’t know who’s going to be in the classroom.”

Many experts believe the omicron variant, which is the dominant strain in the United States, will not linger long, as data indicates the fast-moving variant has already peaked in many places.


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