COVID-19 cases in Alachua County Public Schools continue to rise this week, with increased cases predominantly in high schools, forcing some cancellations for sports and a homecoming parade.
With Gov. Ron DeSantis announcing Florida’s Phase 3 reopening, some parents were concerned that the Digital Academy option would be phased out and students would be forced back into the classroom despite the rise in cases. ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson said the learning option is guaranteed until January.
The school district has 28 active student cases and 10 active staff cases as of Friday afternoon, according to the district dashboard. Since last Friday, one active staff case and nine active student cases have been added. Now, district totals are at 50 student cases and 29 staff cases, an increase of 18 student cases and 6 staff cases from in the past week.
Three active cases are within the transportation department in the school district, according to the dashboard.
The district has 161 students and staff members in self-isolation.
Buchholz and Gainesville High Schools each confirmed a student and staff case. Santa Fe High School reported two student cases. Newberry High School has three staff cases and 15 student cases.
The increase in cases were paired with cancellations. Newberry High School canceled its homecoming parade Tuesday. Gainesville High canceled both junior varsity and varsity football games this week against Forsyth Central.
Hidden Oak, Littlewood and Newberry Elementary Schools have staff cases. Irby, Newberry, Parker and Wiles Elementary Schools have student cases.
No known staff cases have been reported in middle schools. However, there are five student cases at Howard Bishop Middle School and another at Oak View Middle School.
South Florida school districts like Miami Dade were told to move up their reopening dates in a letter from Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Miami-Dade is set to start reopening its schools beginning Monday.
The same isn’t happening in Alachua County.
As it stands, students in Alachua County Public Schools are able to choose from three learning options: in-person schooling, the real-time Digital Academy and asynchronous Alachua eSchool.
As of Friday, there are no changes, or plans for changes, related to learning options or face mask policies, ACPS Superintendent Karen Clarke wrote in an email.
The Florida Department of Education approved the school district’s learning plan through the end of the first semester, Clarke wrote. If the department doesn’t grant an extension in January, students would have to return to brick-and-mortar instruction or take classes through the Alachua eSchool, she added.
At a Monday half-cent surtax committee meeting, members reviewed a vote from the school board that allows the committee to receive information about any changes to projects costing more than $500,000. The half-cent sales tax initiative was voted on in Alachua County in 2018 to use money collected from sales taxes for school projects.
Members voted against renovating Howard Bishop Middle School’s gym and rubberizing tracks at Buchholz and Gainesville High Schools.
Committee members also approved the purchase of land with a building north of Gainesville High School to remodel and expand the campus. The building located at 2002 NW 13th St. was previously the Oak Park Executive Center and sits unoccupied. While the committee hasn’t purchased the land, it’s currently valued between $2.7 and $3.7 million. They’re exploring lower appraisals.