As students in Alachua County prepare to return to school, the school board is scrambling to reopen.
The Alachua County School Board passed a motion Wednesday to push back the school start date from planned Aug. 24 to start Aug. 31. The delay enables the week of Aug. 24 to be used as pre-planning days.
Paul Myers, an administrator at the county health department, told school board members that a positive COVID-19 case within kindergarten to fifth grade will mean that all children within the infected student’s class must be tested. It’s unclear if the students will be tested in school.
Parents must sign a form consenting to the test, which will be less invasive than the standard ones for adults, he said. If more than three students in a class test positive, Myers recommended that the entire classes of those infected move online.
As of Wednesday, the county has budgeted 3,000 rapid tests with a turnaround time of 24 hours to serve a portion of ACPS’ 28,000 students and staff members, Myers said. All tests will be processed by the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF.
Myers added that the school board is trying to gather more rapid tests but is still unsure when they will get them due to the national shortage. He could not specify how many more tests are still needed.
Recommendations for grades sixth through 12 were less concrete. Myers said these students move from classroom to classroom, and larger classes pose additional challenges for testing and contact tracing.
Students and bus drivers will be required to wear masks and sanitize their hands, Myers said. Myers added that students should have their own assigned seats on buses to facilitate contact tracing in the case of exposure to the virus.
The school board also approved $20 an hour pay for teachers undergoing school reopening training on virtual learning and COVID-19 safety. The school board still hasn’t decided how many training days teachers and staff must complete.
The state approved the 2020-2021 learning plan last week to be followed in the Fall. The school district will reassess the plan at a later date and offer traditional brick-and-mortar classes, the Alachua Digital Academy and self-paced Alachua eSchool classes for all grade levels.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct turnaround time for rapid COVID-19 tests.