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Leon County School Board pushes back semester start-date, addresses teacher's concerns

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 23:16:33-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — More than half of Leon County Schools students say they will return to the classroom this fall, although e-learning is an option.

The board approved superintendent Rocky Hanna's bid to push back the start of the school year to Aug. 19. The year was originally set to begin on Aug. 10.

“This has been a moving target since it started,” said DeeDee Rasmussen, a board member.

The board also plans to review responses from its return to the school survey. The district says it heard from 22,000 parents, 60 percent of them saying they would return to the classroom this fall.

Middle and high school students will follow block schedules to reduce the amount of contact for teachers and students.

A concern for the school board is teachers worried about their safety upon return, revealed in a survey conducted by The Leon County Teachers Association.

“The bottom line is a number of our teachers do not feel safe returning in any form or fashion," Hanna said.

The board will also look at making sure CDC guidelines are followed within schools and that students are okay as they enter this new school year.

"When our kids get back we first wanna make sure that they are in a good place and if they're not then we need to get them and their families to help," said Hanna. "They need to get them in a good place before we even talk about the academic aspect of their education. So we're gonna take those first two or three days to work with our students because they've been exposed to a lot, and not just this virus."

More than 30 percent of the district's students plan to attend class through their digital communities.

The board will also look at ensuring every child has the technology needed for e-learning.

There have been a number of questions about what will happen if a student or teacher gets coronavirus after the semester starts.

A list was created on social media that is getting a lot of attention.

One of the questions with the highest interest, will teachers who tested positive for COVID-19 or those caring for sick family members be required to quarantine? If so, how will they be paid?

Hanna says the district will follow CDC and health department guidelines. As for who foots the bill while they are out, he says his goal is to "hold employees as harmless as possible."

Hanna also said the district is working with several local partners to make fast, free testing available to employees who are required to test.

"We just created an MOU with the neighborhood medical clinic for rapid testing," said Hanna. "It's costing us about $140 an employee but it's well worth the expense because we know the accuracy is a much higher level and the turnaround time is much faster than we were experiencing in some of these other locations."

Parents will be required to obtain testing for students, but the district will help point them towards helpful resources.

They will also use the first few days of school to assess student's mental and socio-emotional well being.

Fedrick Ingram of the Florida Education Association says any and all actions taken this school year need to be considered carefully and slowly.

“We understand the extreme conditions that were in and that we have the flexibility to change that calendar at any time," said Alva Striplin, a member of the board. "And we will do so as advised by the Department of Health.”

​Teachers are scheduled to return on August 10.