Durham gives NCSB update on coronavirus

  • Nassau County School District Assistant Superintendent Mark Durham. JULIA ROBERTS/NEWS-LEADER
    Nassau County School District Assistant Superintendent Mark Durham. JULIA ROBERTS/NEWS-LEADER

The assistant superintendent for the Nassau County School District said Thursday that he is not aware of any cases of students giving the coronavirus to other students at school since brick and mortar campuses opened in August.

At the Oct. 8 meeting of the Nassau County School Board, Mark Durham gave a snapshot of the situation with the virus and the efforts being made to keep students and staff safe. He said through the sixth week of schools being open, 35 students and 19 staff members have tested positive and 488 students and 23 staff members were quarantined.

Durham explained the process the district goes through when a student tests positive, which he called “involved and time consuming” but has kept the virus from spreading in schools.

“We don’t know of any cases where the transmission took place at school,” Durham told the School Board. “That’s kind of hard to go back and track, but just from our own knowing who was positive and all, the quarantining seems to have kept students from giving it to each other at school. Most of the stuff is coming from family gatherings or social events that are taking place outside of school.”

Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel, director of the Florida Department of Health – Nassau County, said it is important that older students and parents screen themselves and not come to school or take part in school activities if they are ill, “even if it is mild.” FDOH has produced new flyers with directions for screening students and athletes.

The School Board approved a concurrency agreement that will provide almost $7 million in land, improvements and cash to cover the cost of a new school in Yulee. The new school will be in the Liberty Cove development, between the Robert M. Foster Justice Center and Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Yulee campus.

When residential development is considered in the county, the district conducts research and, following a specific formula, decides if the schools in the area to be developed could hold the number of students the development could bring to the district. In this case, it was determined Yulee Elementary School would not have the capacity for the additional students who would come with the 1,588 homes planned for Liberty Cove.

The owners of the property agreed to pay $6,991,291 as part of the development permit application process. Based on the $3,450,000 current appraised value of the 28.8 acres of donated property and the construction estimate for the improvements, the monetary payment will be $466,093. The final amount of the monetary payment will be adjusted upward or downward to ensure that the total proportionate share of mitigation provided to the school district equals $6,991,291, according to school board documents.

Developer Greg Matovina said the 438-acre development site is south of William Burgess Boulevard and developers are expecting to build the road to the site in 2022 and homes will come in the second half of 2022 to 2023.

NCSB Chair Donna Martin commented, “We can’t stop them from building here. All we can do is get help upfront.”

“They have to pay their fair share of the impact on our school district,” School Superintendent Dr. Kathy Burns said.

Three schools used as voting precincts – Yulee Middle School, West Nassau High School, and Hilliard Middle-Senior High School – will conduct distance learning Tuesday, Nov. 3 in order to allow voting to take place safely. Voting did take place in those schools during the August primary, and Nassau County Supervisor of Elections Vicki Cannon and the NCSD have been working on how best to have voting in those schools now that classes are in session. The district determined the best course of action is to have distance learning on Election Day. Teachers and support employees will work on-site providing the required services and support. Burns said the students in those schools already have devices for distance learning.

The board also approved a list of legislative priorities, items they want representatives in Tallahassee to make a priority in the 2021 session. First and foremost, the board wants the Florida Department of Education to hold the district “harmless,” that is, not cut its funding that is based on the number of students enrolled, as enrollment has dropped significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. That reduction of student numbers could mean the loss of millions of dollars in state funding. The district also wants the FDOE to stop handing down mandates to which local districts must adhere but for which the FDOE does not provide funding. The third
priority of the district is additional funding for mental health services.