Leon County School Superintendent reveals insight into district’s COVID-19 response

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WTXL Tallahassee | by WTXL digital staff | November 30, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Insight into how the Leon County School District has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic came to light Monday during an informal meeting between key local officials.

The meeting was hosted by Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, and included comments from Superintendent Rocky Hanna and School Board Chair Joy Bowen.

Among the topics discussed, Superintendent Hanna shared that there are still some students missing from the Leon County School District system.

“We are indeed searching for a number of students here locally, we’re down about 2,000 [students], from 31,000 to 29,000 in raw numbers,” said Hanna.

Out of these 2,000 students missing between 300 and 400 students are kindergarteners’ parents’ choosing to not enroll their children until the next year, bringing the unaccounted student total to about 1,500 to 1,600, according to Superintendent Hanna.

“We are looking and trying to find exactly where those kids are,” said Superintendent Hanna. “We have a team that’s going out and knocking on doors and walking streets, trying to find these students.”

Superintendent Hanna also shared that there have been some positive tests in the district from students and employees alike, though he said teachers were “making it work.”

He told Mayor Dailey that the school district has about 140 students and about 80 employees that have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year, but said the majority were asymptomatic.

“It’s something we monitor every single day, every classroom, every school, every day in lock-step with the Leon County Health Department,” said Superintendent Hanna.

Aside from the negative effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the school district, Superintendent Hanna said that there is a bright spot: The “1:1 Initiative.”

Leon County School’s 1:1 Initiative aims to connect each student with access to technological devices, such as tablets and Chromebooks.

The program, which cost about $10 million, was approved by the Leon County School Board in June 2020 and included the purchase of 32,500 Chromebooks, according to Superintendent Hanna.

Leon County School District received the devices in early November and began distributing them shortly after, with schools continuing to distribute them currently.

The Leon County School District’s semester is set to end on Jan. 15, 2021, Hanna said on Monday. No decision has been made on Spring Break 2021, according to the superintendent.

The meeting took place minutes before Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement that Florida schools would remain open for in-person classes,  while also offering virtual learning options.