Walton Students are “Falling” Into New Expectations
Walton School District continues to gain momentum as students settle into their new normal. Although there was apprehension surrounding the opening of schools, Superintendent Hughes and district staff with the cooperation of parents and students, have been able to prevent serious outbreaks of the COVID-19 Virus in the district with the implementation of a stringent safety plan. Since the opening of schools in August, the district has only had reports of 16 cases of virus infection. Mr. Hughes says, “We are certain these totals are due to staff and community compliance to the safety protocols put in place, and we appreciate everyone’s cooperation.” Students have been attentive to expectations of social distancing, hand washing, and sanitizing as well as the need to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible. District staff continues to observe safety guidelines by disinfecting and sanitizing rooms between classes and wearing face coverings. Our efforts have been rewarded with low infection rates in comparison to school cases in other counties. “We are intentional about the safety of our students,” says Russell Hughes, Superintendent of Schools. Walton County began the year with approximately 75% of students attending the brick and mortar campuses throughout the district and to date, that number has risen to approximately 90%. Superintendent Hughes says, “I believe we are seeing increases in the number of students returning to our brick and mortar buildings because our parents have gained confidence in our endeavors to maintain safety and normalcy for our students. Student safety is always a priority.”
Current economic challenges have created unexpected hardships for parents in our community. Walton County School District is pleased to announce the USDA waiver food service program which will allow ALL students, regardless of family economic status or school attended, the opportunity to receive school meals without cost. Breakfast and lunch are the only meals covered under the waiver as a la carte items will continue to be on a pay per receipt basis. The free meals are for our brick and mortar and ILDA students only. Parents are encouraged to complete applications for free or reduced benefits regardless of need. The data collected helps to determine the need for the continuation of this federally sponsored program.
Another important data collection directly affecting school funding is the United States 2020 Census. Walton County’s population growth is ranked 3rd in Florida. However, when evaluating our county’s Census completion data at the end of September, we ranked 64th out of Florida’s 67 counties! In 2010, the time of our last Census 57.5% of our community had self-reported. This year, closing in on the collection deadline only 33.2% of Walton County citizens had made the effort to respond. Superintendent Hughes made community pleas to parents and the community at large to encourage the completion of the 2020 Census. “The Census is an important data collection piece that directly affects the federal funding critical for schools, students, and young children,” says Mr. Hughes. “Every citizen should make every effort to get their Census information counted.”
Walton County schools look forward to Fall and the return of athletics. Guidelines for spectator safety are in effect for all schools hosting athletic events. Please expect random temperature checks upon entering stadiums, social distancing enforced and volunteers serving food at concession stands to wear their PPE.
Superintendent Hughes is aware as a community we are becoming taxed with the tediousness of ongoing safety protocols but he encourages us to “stay diligent. The consequences to family, neighbors, and friends far outweigh the sacrifice.” Hughes continues, “Our most precious commodity, our children are worth everything!”
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