WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — “It is a pandemic. It is at schools, it is in our communities it is in our world,” said Walton County Superintendent Russell Hughes. “So what we are doing, our goal is to mitigate it. Keep the numbers minimum. Keep children safe.”
Hughes attributes the success that the school district has seen in managing the COVID-19 pandemic to closely following CDC guidelines such as wearing masks, social distancing and proceeding cautiously.
“If, 1) you choose not to social distance, and 2) you choose not to wear a mask, then you are willingly saying, ‘I am up for and volunteering to go home for 14 days if I don’t follow those protocols,'” Hughes said.
About 86% of students enrolled in Walton County schools are attending via brick and mortar. This means the school district has around 9,000 students, in addition to around 1,400 employees, on campus each day.
Earlier this month, the Walton County School District reported a total of 31 positive cases of COVID-19 among students and staff leading to 56 quarantines in 20 out of 21 of its schools. It also reported 42 cases of quarantines due to outside exposure.
In less than two weeks, the district saw another 18 positive cases resulting in 31 more quarantines due to on-campus exposure and 1 additional quarantine due to outside exposure.
Hughes said this was a jump for them, bringing the total positive cases among students and staff to 49, the total quarantines from on-campus exposure to 73 and the total quarantines from outside exposure to 43. But overall, Hughes said with over 10,000 people on campuses daily, they could be doing worse.
“We won’t use the word ‘worried,'” Hughes said. “We are very conscientious, cautious and mindful.”
“We remind our teachers, I remind our principals—frequently—that this is not over,” Hughes added. “It is still real.”