Out of area student enrollment has increased in Walton County even amidst the pandemic

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WALTON COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — The school district has been offering three options for students to attend classes but many are now returning to brick and mortar from the original digital options.

Walton County Schools Superintendent Russell Hughes said he has seen an increase just within the past week. He said at the beginning of the school year in June, enrollment was around 70% and now, it is at 93%.

“We really do believe that it is the confidence in our community, the great work of our leaders at schools, our teachers, and our students who are doing a great job at minimizing the effects of COVID,” said Hughes.

Hughes said they have made it known, they are not trying to eliminate the spread of COVID-19. They are asking those coming to the school campus’ to help mitigate.

“I actually am starting to see quite a few of my online learners actually coming back into the classroom now,” said South Walton High School Social Studies Teacher Amanda Steele.

Steele said she has noticed those attending digital schooling options significantly decreasing.

Which Hughes says is true.

“Seven percent of nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight,” said Hughes.

Although, as Walton County keeps growing, so have enrollment numbers for the year.

“We’ve had 88 students at South Walton who came from out of the county, and that has been that increase in our entire district,” said Hughes.

South Walton High School is not the only school with increasing numbers. Dune Lakes Elementary has welcomed 96 out of area students. Emerald Coast Middle School, 78. 

Just to name a few. All schools equalling 793 out of area students.

Originally from Wisconsin, Steele said she has many out of area students as well.

“I think that is why you are seeing a lot of people just come to the area, because it is beautiful, they know that the school system is good,” said Steele.

But as they welcome more students to Walton schools, Hughes said they are keeping in mind spacing requirements for classrooms, especially during the pandemic.

Although Florida is entering into phase three, they will continue to socially distance and wear masks on campus in order to eliminate the negative effects COVID-19 has on the classroom environment. So far though, Hughes said it has been impactful.

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