To the parents of the Walton County School District:
As August begins and teachers were welcomed back on Monday, August 3, 2020, I would like to provide several updates regarding the reopening of schools and remind that schools will now start for students on August 17, 2020. This new date allows our faculty and staff to receive additional training days as we prepare for your child’s health and safety.
I first want to assure all parents of Walton County School District students our school and district staff have worked diligently to safely, effectively and innovatively welcome your children back to school. Although too lengthy to list every initiative, the following is a quick summary of major preparedness efforts:
- Safety – A Re-opening Task Force has been meeting since May to develop plans to reopen schools. Task force members include representatives from the Florida Department of Health, Walton County Emergency Management, school principals, teachers, Education Support Personnel, district staff, and WCSD parents. A Re-opening Safety Plan has been written and will be provided and explained to all employees as they return this week, and a Re-opening Frequently Asked Questions handout was posted on our website for parents.
- Facilities – Each school facility will require employees to pass a COVID-19 screener in order to enter. Safety supplies have been ordered and are arriving daily to include; masks, clear face shields, and gloves. Each individual classroom will be provided with hand sanitizing stations and social distancing signage is being installed in hallways and common areas. Isolation rooms have been identified. Plant managers have been trained how to properly oversee the cleaning and disinfecting of each of our facilities.
- Transportation – Bus drivers learned how to sanitize their buses. Drivers were further trained how to seat students and encourage all students to wear masks.
- Communication – We continue regular updates to our website and social media accounts. Our new text line (850.204.9667) has been set up in addition to the Let’s Talk link on our webpage where questions and concerns can be submitted at any hour of the day. The district held a Virtual Town Hall, which was recorded and is available on our website.
- Curriculum and Instruction (C & I) – Teachers will be encouraged to accelerate students’ learning in order to gain momentum and ensure children are on grade level and beyond. A new webpage was created explaining our Innovative Learning Digital Academy and our Walton Virtual School. Training videos were recorded to assist teachers to effectively deliver instruction both in person and virtually. Mental health is also a focus. We have a curriculum ready to help students transition back to school, teach character traits; such as personal space and responsibility, and provide support to students with traumatic situations, especially for students whose families may have been affected by the virus.
- Technology – Middle schools are preparing for a one-to-one computer initiative and devices are being prepped for virtual learners. Videos have been made for teachers detailing how to utilize technology resources to support students who may at some time be absent; ensuring instruction continues seamlessly.
- Athletics and ExtraCurricular Activities – Athletic directors meet regularly to discuss safety measures and plan appropriately for upcoming sports seasons. Extra-curricular groups such as band directors, have met to discuss use of face shields and innovative ideas for instruments and concerts.
Finally, I want you to know I challenge my staff daily to create balance for you and your family. On one hand, we are focused on what has always been our number one priority – health and safety. We are learning new topics daily, some of which we have never had to encounter at the school level. Even so, we will have the best plans and procedures in place for our children and employees. I want to commend my staff for helping to create a sense of normalcy for your children. We miss our students so much! We are excited and feel such a sense of urgency not only to welcome children back but to teach; continuing our high expectation to become the best in the state in the most safe and healthy environment possible.
As your Superintendent, I want to send a heartfelt thank you to each of you for continuing to support the Walton County School District. Your belief in our district and our employees means so much to us.
A Russell Hughes