Back to class in Clay County: Here’s what you need to know

More than 40,000 students in Clay County are back in school today as we kick off the new school year. News4JAX's Ashley Harding joins us from Ridgeview Elementary where she spoke with students.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Ready or not, parents and students, it’s time to get back into the swing of the fall semester.

More than 40,000 students in Clay County are back in school Wednesday, and we want to make sure you have all the info you need as you send your children off for their first day of classes.

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Parents and students, here’s what you need to know:

Bus reminders

Clay County parents can follow their student’s bus through a website and app.

It’s called “Here Comes the Bus.”

It gives parents the real-time location of their student’s bus and shows their scheduled and actual arrival times.

It also sends email alerts and push notifications to tell students the right time to get to the bus stop.

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To sign up, you’ll need your school’s code.

Clay County’s is 2-8-4-6-5.

Follow the prompts, then add your child’s information under the “My students” section.

You’ll need your child’s student ID number for this part.

Confirm your information, then you’re good to go.

The Clay County transportation director and a veteran driver talk about the first day of school as buses are ready to roll.

It recommends reaching out to the transportation department if you have any issues. In Clay County, you can call 904-336-0111.

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Superintendent David Broskie recommended parents be extra sure they know which bus their students should take.

“That’s our biggest concern day one -- people not knowing where to go,” Broskie said.

He also asked the community for some extra patience on the roads.

“Thousands of people and their parents will be on the road at approximately the same time so traffic patterns will be different,” Broskie said. “We ask for patience from parents, students and the community at large.”

COVID protocols

Clay County schools are reminding parents to keep their kids home if they are sick.

It says anyone with a fever of 100.4 or higher, sudden loss of taste or smell or vomiting should NOT go to school.

“If your child is sick, please keep them home,” Broskie said.

Students and staff should be symptom-free for 24 hours before heading back to school.

COVID-related absences will be treated like any other. Parents must give a written excuse within three days or it will be considered unexcused.

It will be up to the student to request and make up the work they missed.

‘We are doing extensive cleaning and we’re mindful of the situation but we’re just happy to come back,” Broskie said.

The district is using the Florida Department of Education’s recommendations when it comes to COVID-19 this year.

If a student or employee tests positive, they must be fever-free for 24 hours.

No additional testing is required.

Students and staff who are exposed but do not test positive or have symptoms will not be required to quarantine.

And no one will be required to wear masks.

The back to school blitz is underway in Clay County. News4JAX's Ashley Harding joins us from Middleburg High where she spoke with parents dropping off their kids.

Alert systems

Clay County law enforcement agencies, including the school district, use the SaferWatch app to allow members of the community to send tips, photos and videos directly to law enforcement.

RELATED: SaferWatch: New app acts as ‘digital panic button’ for Clay County residents

You can even go live with personnel at Clay County’s Real Time Crime Center.

Clay County also encourages the use of FortifyFL, an app for reporting suspicious activity to appropriate law enforcement agencies and school officials.

Clay County has an outline on its website for the process to report bullying and harassment. The bullying hotline is 904-336-6799.

Safety & security

Clay County is rolling out a new program called CHIRP -- the County Hazardous Incident Response Program -- that would stabilize a situation in the 45 minutes of an incident on campus, get crisis messaging out, alert the community, inform parents on how to reunite with their children, etc.

RELATED: Clay County officials lay out plans to keep schools safe

“We are fortunate to have guardians and school police officers so hopefully the community sees that and sees that we are being proactive on campuses,” Clay County School District Chief Kenneth Wagner said. “No child should come to school and feel unsafe because it is molding the rest of their lives.”

Clay County School District Chief Kenneth Wagner spoke live with Ashley Harding during the first day of school Wednesday with some important reminders for parents and students.

Wagner said messages will be sent through the SaferWatch app, Twitter and other outlets and the district’s normal robocall system.

“That is gonna give them specific instructions on what to do because when everyone converges on an incident, roads are gonna be blocked and congested; we’re gonna let people know exactly where to go. It helps ease those fears and get those kids back together,” Wagner said. “We are using false tips to look for red flags, trying to identify those to bring normalcy to that student and not cause any harm or anything like that.”

Safety specialist Steven Mills said all the campuses will have a single point of access after the first bell.

He also encouraged the proper use of the FortifyFL app.

“There is an app called FortifyFL and children and whoever abuses that can get in trouble now. We want them to call if necessary but we also want to make sure they are doing the right thing. When they turn on the app, there will be a warning that if you report something that is not correct, there will be consequences. The state has ramped up that,” Mills said.

Important links

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.