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Lowndes County Schools start back after several employees test positive for COVID-19

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 11:04 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Lowndes County Schools kicked off its 2020-2021 school year for both virtual and in-person classes Friday after nearly a dozen teachers test positive for COVID-19 during their pre-planning period.

According to a document obtained from an open records request, 11 Lowndes County Schools employees have tested positive for the virus within the last two weeks.

Superintendent Wes Taylor says they have not provided mass testing for employees but have teamed up with the local health department to track their exposure to the virus with what they call their COVID-19 Employee Exposure Report.

“I have been nervous. We have been cautious. We track our numbers every day, and I’m anxious to see them everyday,” he said. “It’s just a convenient and handy way for us to keep up with all of our employees that have been exposed at some point.”

The document lists almost a dozen positive cases since July. And the school board says out of their 1,400 employees total, 51 have contracted the virus since the start of the outbreak.

"We're gonna air on the side of caution," Taylor said. "If somebody has had direct exposure, we're not just waiting on a test result. And we're treating our classrooms, our teams, the same way. We wanna make sure we do any and everything we can to keep our people safe."

Despite the changes and a few extra safety precautions, Bari Hallman, a Pre-K teacher at Westside Elementary School, tells WCTV the "new normal" didn't feel so different.

"Everything seems perfectly normal," she said. "In the world of Pre-K, they don't know what to expect anyway, so this is all very normal for them."

Hallman has been teaching for three years, but it's a first, of course, teaching through a pandemic. She says they're working to normalize face masks around the kids since the district is mandating them.

She started her first day of class with an instrumental video and discussion about the importance of keep faces covered at all times.

“We will have some that take them off,” she said. “We’ve had a couple spin them around their fingers for a little while, but then we just gently remind them to put them back on, and they do, and it doesn’t seem to be an issue.”

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