July 8, 2020
June 22, 2020
Today, Governor DeSantis, Commissioner Corcoran, and the Florida Department of Education released a 150-page plan entitled “Re-opening Florida Schools and the CARES Act: Closing Achievement Gaps and Creating Safe Spaces for Learning”. The document provides specific guidance on many school topics, such as social distancing, mask use, transportation, academics, school events, and more. The report serves as a recommendation to Florida Superintendents and school districts and allows for local decision making based on what is best for individual counties.
Today’s announcement is great news for Walton, because we have been working on a re-opening plan specific to our needs for the past several weeks. As Superintendent, I created a Re-opening Task Force in May which is meeting regularly and includes expert stakeholders from the Florida Department of Health and Walton County Emergency Management. Many of the topics being focused on by the task force have been guided by COVID-19 data; Florida’s phases, which were established by our Governor; CDC guidelines; and our recent parent survey results. For example, in our survey data, only 5% of our parents indicated that their students may not return to our brick and mortar buildings and are considering Walton Virtual School. With that input, we immediately started preparing for our next steps and ultimately for the restart of our school year on August 10, 2020.
To start, we have carefully and strategically begun bringing small groups of students onto our campuses. On June 1st, we were able to serve families by opening our SPICE program to 180 students at four schools. To date, this program has been very successful, and the process has allowed us to transition effectively keeping our children and employees safe.
Our district will move to a second step on June 15th when we welcome an additional wave of students for the purpose or restarting extracurricular activities. This next step will allow us to bring on more students and employees while still moving meticulously. We have learned a great deal from these small steps, including everything from how to screen students and employees quickly and efficiently to keeping siblings together to minimize exposure.
Next, in July, we hope to continue bringing additional students back for our annual Summer Bridge and other types of educational programs to help fill in learning gaps from the last nine weeks and/or help students who may need a jumpstart to the 2020-2021 school year.
In preparation for the new year, we are working hard to provide answers, options, and innovative solutions. As our state and nation moves forward, we will begin to see school districts across America discuss non-traditional ideas for the educational process. We do know that school will look different. COVID-19 effects, phases, and information may continue to change, so traditional school processes like scheduling, car drop off, school lunches, buses, and more may change with what we know and learn. For example, whether we wear masks, not wear masks, or choose to wear masks, all will be addressed. Please know over the coming weeks, our school district will determine what is best for all stakeholders. We will work hard to achieve and are committed to the best re-opening plan for our district. Rest assured, this task, and likewise making it EPIC, is taken seriously for the well-being of our children and greater community.
Please continue to look for additional information from my office which will be rolled out in the weeks to come. When decisions are made, you will be the first to know, and we will post the information as soon as we finalize it. Until then, if you hear rumors or have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your school(s) and/or the district office. Thank you for your trust, confidence, and belief in our school district, and thank you for giving us time and grace to make the best decisions for our children.
June 4, 2020
June 3, 2020
May 29, 2020
An Update from Superintendent A. Russell Hughes
On our last official day of the 2019-2020 school year, I wanted to take the time to say a sincere thank you to all Walton County School District students, parents, and employees.
The last few months have been like nothing we have ever experienced, but at the same time, I can share story after story of excellence, professionalism, innovation, and collaboration. In Walton County, we call that the Walton Way – EPIC. Those are the only words to describe you! From bus drivers and food service workers delivering food to families to parents working on a math problem over a conference call with teachers, everyone has stepped up to the “new normal” and even exceeded expectations.
Before the summer starts, I do want to share a few updates with you.
First, our summer feeding program will continue as it has in year’s past. Feeding will begin June 11 and run every Thursday (June 11, June 18, June 25, July 1, July 9, July 16, July 23, and July 30). Please note July 1, our holiday week, will be on a Wednesday. Our two food locations are Walton Middle School in DeFuniak Springs and Freeport High School in Freeport. We will offer a curbside service from 10:00 a.m. until 12 noon.
Second, we have put together a short survey for parents. You can access the survey from the link at the end of this post.
Please take a few minutes to help us plan for the 2020-2021 school year. Your feedback is very important to us. We want to know your thoughts surrounding health, safety, and returning to school.
Finally, as I stated above, we do appreciate everyone’s hard work and enthusiasm during these past two months. If you would like to recognize a Walton County School District employee or school who has gone above and beyond, please feel free to send a compliment via our text line at 850.204.9667. We will be sure to pass on your “shout-out” to your child’s school!
Please continue to stay safe, healthy, and connected to your school for updates. Have a great summer and thank you again for another great school year!
May 27, 2020