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Wakulla County Schools Mulls Over Fall Reopening Plans

A boy cranes his head over a math workbook. He fills in problems with his pencil.
Annie Spratt
Wakulla County School students will start brick and mortar classes on August 13 and distance learning on August 27.

Wakulla County Schools will reopen August 13 with new safety protocols to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. Among them: Bus drivers will take students' temperatures daily. For those walking to school or getting dropped off by parents, staff will check their temperatures upon entering the building.

"We want to honor their right to make a choice when possible on what they want to do with masks—wearing masks and the mandatory mask-wearing," Wakulla County Schools Superintendent Robert Pearce says. "But if we see a situation where social distancing is not very good, and we believe that it's creating a risk—the spread of the disease—we will make changes as we move through."

Pearce explains it's almost impossible to social distance inside school buses, so students will be required to wear face masks. However, students will not be required to wear masks in any other area. The school will supply face masks and shields for teachers and students.

Teachers will be required to wear masks when in close contact with one another and in hallways. They will not be required to wear them in classrooms. If Wakulla County passes a mask ordinance, Pearce says that decision will impact whether schools will require masks in more areas.

Students won't be able to use lockers this year. Pearce says most textbooks will remain in classrooms, and the district is working to have computers accessible for students as well. Staff will wipe down classes at the end of each day.

If a student or teacher gets infected with COVID-19 this fall, Pearce says staff will notify the health department. He explains it's the department's job to then reach out to the teachers and students who were in contact with the infected individual.

"It's their job to make that notification, but what they will do is help guide us through quarantine measures, levels of quarantine, who needs to be quarantined based on the infection and who it is and where it happened," Pearce says.

Pearce says he expects some cases to crop up during the coming school year. He says the health department will advise the district on how to proceed when that happens.

Teachers can elect to be assigned 3 - 5 distance learning students on top of a full day of in-person classes. They will mainly assist distance learning students in completing their classwork and won't be required to create video lessons. Teachers who take on this additional responsibility will get an extra stipend. That amount is still under negotiation.