Schools and COVID-19 continue to be a hot topic, including in Alachua County. Science is evolving as researchers spend more time studying the virus.
The CDC announced changes Wednesday as to what is considered close contact: Now it is defined as 15 minutes within 24 hours versus 15 consecutive minutes. Cases in Alachua County Public Schools continue to rise, up 19 student and four staff cases since last week, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard Friday afternoon. This brings totals to 106 students and 48 staff positives since school began Aug. 31.
In Alachua County Public Schools, a Scientific Medical Advisory Council filled with medical doctors and researchers on issues like public health, pediatric medicine and infectious disease meet most Fridays to continually update district protocols in response to COVID-19, said ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson.
The dashboard indicates five active student cases and four active staff cases in elementary schools. A pair of students and staff have tested positive at Meadowbrook and Wiles. There are student positives at Alachua, Chiles and Rawlings elementaries. Two staff members at Parker and Talbot have also tested positive.
One student at Oak View Middle School and one staff member at Mebane Middle tested positive.
In high schools, 11 Gainesville High students and 15 Santa Fe High students tested positive. There is one staff positive at Santa Fe.
One active case remains at Sidney Lanier Center, and three active cases are shown in the district transportation department and one in the district office.
There are 89 ACPS staff and students in quarantine, down from 178 last Friday.
The school district follows the latest COVID-19 recommendations in determining when to send students home, according to its protocols, which were last updated Tuesday. If a student has new or unexplainable symptoms that match virus symptoms, such as fever, loss of taste or smell or a sore throat, a guardian will be contacted to pick-up the student and the COVID-19 Response Team will be notified in the event of a positive.
Johnson said the committee is in constant communication, and there are often weekly changes to ensure spread is limited and the latest guidelines are followed.
Part of the reason for the downturn might lie in issues with accessing testing due to interruptions from COVID-19. Students have missed end-of-year tests and are facing limited SAT and ACT test dates.
Also this week, the school district’s staff attorney Brian Moore, who has worked in the district for the last eight years, is moving on to a state-level position in Tallahassee. Diana Johnson, who currently serves as deputy county attorney in Lake County, has been selected to take on the role.
Moore has been involved extensively in the rezoning concerning elementary schools in western Gainesville.
A website was created for the new Elementary School I rezoning. The new elementary school is being built at 3999 SW 122nd St. Funded through the half-cent sales tax initiative passed by county voters in 2018, a county tax raises money for school district projects like the new elementary school and school updates, the zoning has the potential to impact the zoned school for families in the area.
Kim Neal, a director in the Department of Student Assigning and Zoning, and Jeff Charbonnet, director of research, assessment and school improvement, will continue to be part of the process, Johnson said.
Also involved is John Gilreath, a geographic information systems manager who is working to help map out the potential zones.
An event for further public input on the issue will be held on Nov. 4 from 4 to 8 p.m. in the School Board meeting room at the District Office located at 620 E. University Ave. Individual elementary schools are also in the process of holding their own events on the topic.