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ECHS switches to virtual instruction this week

Escambia County High School students are attending school virtually this week because of COVID-19-related reasons, school system officials said Tuesday.

Superintendent John Knott said in telephone interview that the school had one staff member and six students that had COVID-19 positive cases.

“With that, we have to take into consideration the number of close contacts that come out of that,” Knott said. “In addition, we’ve got a lot of students that’ll end up having close contacdt, not at school, but with other family members that are positive.”

Knott said the assessment to switch the final week of the fall semester to virtual was also aided because a large of students are out of school.

According to a post on the school’s Facebook page, final exams were canceled. Knott said this decision was made some three weeks ago because he wanted the students to have as much instruction as possbile.

He added because of the slow start to the year due to the virus, and students having come in contact with other family members who are positive, it was the best interest for them to cancel final exams. The decision was made for all county schools, he said.

“Time is now so precious,” Knott said. “We need to be using every second of every day in providing instruction and helping students master standards they’re suppoed to master. We (schools) are all behind in the state and country. I think we have to be mindful about everything we do.”

In regard to Escambia County Middle School and Rachel Patterson Elementary School, Knott said students are still going for in-school instruction and nothing has changed, however.

“At the middle school and elementary school, we still have to deal with the same kind of problems and some positive cases,” he said. “The numbers there have been very, very low and have not been significant enough to require the decision to go virtual. Those students need to go to school every day and need to be engaged in the learning process.”

When asked about rumors circulating about how a middle school teacher came back to teach after having tested positive for the virus, Knott said it’s not true and the school system isn’t going to take a chance.

“We have been one of the systems in the state that have truly held to the guidelines that have been put out by the Alabma Department of Public Health,” he said. “If we have a staff member who has tested positive they have to complete their quarantine requirements and make sure they are fit to come back to school. That includes if it’s a staff member that has had close contact, whether it’s at school or at home. They’ll have to quarantine just like the guidelines that are set for every student.”

Knott said through his meetings with school administrators, he’s reinforced to them to make sure their schools are cleaned after each school day.

“I have asked all of the schools to double their efforts and make sure all staff and students follow protocols,” Knott said. “We are still not allowing parents and visitors to come in and participate in activiites and I hate that. I have expressed doing spelling bees and other activities, and record them or put them on Facebook live.”

Over the Christmas holiday, Dec. 21-22, each school will be cleaned and sanitized by an outside agency, Knott said.