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Superintendent A. Russell Hughes has announced that the Walton County School District (WCSD) start date for students will change to Monday, August 17th, which represents a one-week change. All WCSD employees will still report as scheduled.

The change in start date has been made for three reasons. First, by bringing faculty and staff back as planned, the WCSD will be able to provide additional training days for employees on topics such as health, safety, and the WCSD’s new Innovative Learning Digital Academy (ILDA). Second, schools will have time to create and train with innovative strategies, such as modified block scheduling, which can help decrease traffic and exposure in schools. Finally, the WCSD has ordered additional computers, which includes a one-to-one initiative for all middle school students, and the week will allow for computer preparations, imaging, and etc.

As always, the number one priority of the WCSD is safety, and this adjustment will ensure the health, safety, and efficiency of our district and for your students. Thank you for your understanding and support.

The WCSD is asking our families to commit to one of the three educational options for their children/students for the fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year. Our goal is to have confirmed feedback from all families by July 20. The below decision will be a semester-by-semester commitment. Parents/guardians will need to complete one Student Intent Form for the 2020-21 School Year for each student in their household.

Due to the Commissioner of Education’s Emergency Order No. 2020-EO-06, the Walton County School District will now release our Re-opening Plan for the 2020-2021 school year by end of business on Wednesday, July 8th. Thank you for being understanding and supportive as we create the best plan for our students and our employees.

Update from Superintendent A. Russell Hughes

June 11, 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.

The last day to complete AR tests for students' AR goals for the school year will be Friday, May 22 at 3:00 p.m. Students must have reached their 4th AR goal by this date/time in order to receive their House MVP shirt. Shirts will be given out during the Student Celebration/pickup next week.

Please join us the week of May 25th for an end of year parade. This will be an opportunity for your child to pick up their belongings from the school and see their teacher before summer begins. We will be set up on the bus ramp at the back of the school so you can just drive through, pick up your child's belongings and wave hello to the teachers and staff. Below is a schedule of the dates and times for each grade level:

Tuesday, May 26

Kindergarten 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

1st Grade 9:15 a.m.- 10:15 a.m.

2nd Grade 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

3rd Grade 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 27

Pre-K   8:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

Mrs. Johnston's ESE class   9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Thursday, May 28

5th Grade   8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

4th Grade   9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

We look forward to seeing everyone next week!