Walton County School Board receives COVID-19 updates and meal distribution stats

By STACY MARTIN

On Tuesday, April 7, the Walton County School Board (WCSB) held its first regular meeting of the month via Microsoft Teams, a communication platform that allows for virtual conferencing.  The meeting began by the approval of the March 24 meeting minutes and the agenda for the April 7 meeting.  

Under Action Agenda: Michelle Doggett requested School Board Permission to Advertise School Board Rules/Policies as a result of the executive order 20-69 concerning COVID-19. An emergency policy regarding school board meetings, allowing emergency school board meetings to be held virtually or telephonic, and addressing receiving public comments and interactions during these meetings.  

  A motion was made by Marsha Winegarner, and second by Gail Smith. Final Resolution: Motion Carried, Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner.

Human resources Department: Requested for approval of April 7, 2020 personnel recommendations and personnel addendum. Motion by Marsha Winegarner, second by Bill Eddins. 

Final Resolution: Motion Carried, Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner.

Facilities and Construction Department: Doggett presented to the council a public notice of the proposed purchase of real property by WCSB located on Sheldon Ave, extending property currently owned by the district. Pending another public meeting within 30 days for a public hearing available for comment.  

Next, the board voted to proceed with a public hearing for amendments to school board rules and policies. Six items, approved by the board on Jan. 21, to advertise the changes and new policies:

5.32 : Zero tolerance for school crimes, 5.301: Additions to language for bullying and harassment rules to include the term “anti-Semitic.” 8.10 School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting and 3.40 School administration’s threat assessment team amendments. 6.09 Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Program, a new policy which states: The Florida Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal Allocation is created to provide recruitment, retention, and recognition awards to classroom teachers, instructional personnel, and principals, and additional definitions and policy context.

6.22 Teaching out of Field policy. With no comment from the public, the board voted to adjourn the public hearing portion of the meeting and returned to the regularly scheduled meeting.

Continuing, the School Board Approval of Amendments to School Board rules and policies.  A Motion by Kim Kirby, second by Gail Smith, motion carried with all ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner.

The board then received COVID-19 updates. Superintendent Russell Hughes began by discussing how Friday was a challenge for the district due to the new executive order that went into effect, which added additional questions on the COVID-19 questionnaire, and prevented some from returning to work.  

Charlie Morris gave an update to the board to inform them of the daily screening process with employees, including questionnaire, temperatures testing, PPE (which includes masks and gloves); EzyWrap masks have been supplied to the employees who are directly interacting with the public and limited visitor access the lobbies.  

Morris also gave updates on the confirmed numbers of those infected with Covid-19, numbers presented to the board as of April,7 at 5 p.m: In Florida: 14,747 confirmed cases with 296 deaths.

Confirmed cases by county: Escambia County:168;  Santa Rosa: 66; Okaloosa:70; and Walton 26; Bay: 25; Washington and Holmes Counties:2.  

In Walton County, 19 of those confirmed are residents, seven are non-residents, with five of them hospitalized. The number of tests given is 245, with 219 returning negative. Board member Smith gave a breakdown from the cities in Walton County- 

DeFuniak Sorings: 2;  

Miramar Beach: 3

Freeport: 3

Santa Rosa Beach: 9 

Missing: 2

The board then received updates on the food distribution program. On Tuesday, April 7,  the district changed its distribution process, handing out a week’s worth of breakfast and lunches to each child. The district reported an increase of meals picked up by 36.85% more than expected, and for the first time, the food supplies ran out at Maude Saunders and Walton Middle School.  

Hughes gave a report to the board based on the numbers provided to him by the Food Service Director, Robert Martin. The numbers reflect each school distribution site’s historical high recorded of students receiving meal pickups, and the new numbers indicating the student turn out for the April 7 meal pickups:

Paxton’s historical high was reported at 191, for April 7 meal pick up: 211.

Maude Saunders historical high reported at 190, for April 7, pick up: 331.

Walton Middle School: Historical high reported at 125, April 7: 232.

Mossy Head School reported record high at 90, April 7, reported: 203.

Freeport High School historical high reported at 145, April 7, reported 265.

Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Hawthorne gave updates to the board regarding communication updates, food distribution, and curriculum: Ways the district is informing employees and the public. Videos posted on Facebook, emails sent out to employees, written updates to the website.  

Instructional continuity plan approved by the FLDOE. Using much online recourse already in place. Class link has 16, 304 total app launch 19,500 log-ins in two days Campus study island, Kahn academy, and Google classrooms. Paper packets are also available from the schools and Wi-Fi hot spots have been available and checked out by parents.  

For some students who have not logged in, schools have made phone calls and made attempts to visit homes safely, to determine and assets each situation.

Closing Items: The board members all thanked faculty and staff and everyone involved with the WCSD council and board and especially to the IT department for their work at producing the video conference meetings and all the work in meal distributions and online learning education.  

In the Chairpersons report: Request was made to change the frequency of board meetings and temporarily switch to once a month instead of twice to help limit the additional work from the IT dept.  Weekly written update provided to the board from Hughes. A motion was made to cancel the April 21 meeting and that the next meeting will be set then form May 5 either virtually or at Tivoli pending future COVID preventative social distancing measures.