“We have encountered challenging daily operating procedures,” the schools superintendent said.
Tallahassee Democrat | By Jeffrey Schweers | August 31, 2021
Taylor County Schools — a rural Big Bend district with only 2,800 students — is now the first in the state to completely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, albeit temporarily.
In a letter posted on the district’s website, Superintendent Danny Glover said the pandemic has taken its toll and all schools Thursday and Friday will shut down as a preventative measure and a chance to “reset.”
“Covid has impacted our community in unexpected ways,” Glover wrote. “While we at Taylor County Schools have been able to provide safe school environments for your students during this time, we have also encountered challenging daily operating procedures.”
Taylor County, an hour’s drive southeast of Tallahassee, has the highest per capita COVID spread in Florida at 247 per 100,000, averaging 59 new cases a day — a 137% increase over the past 14 days, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data compiled by the New York Times.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1 in 6 residents have been infected, a total of 3,787 reported cases,” the New York Times reported.
Sara Green, a clinical researcher at Florida State University who lives in Taylor County, said she has seen COVID infections skyrocket recently.
“We had 401 cases last week. 182 the week prior. 126 the week prior to that,” Green said. “During the whole pandemic our largest daily case rate (prior to July 2021) was 35 or so in one day … and that was not the norm. We stayed at roughly less than 5 cases per day on average.”
Doctor’s Hospital in Perry is reporting 11 COVID patients this week and 107% occupancy of its ICU ward. Many patients from Taylor County go to Tallahassee or Gainesville, Green said, “because our rural hospital is so small and understaffed/underfunded.”
Also, children wind up going to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare or Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee or UF Health in Gainesville because the local hospital doesn’t have a pediatrics unit, Green said.
Taylor County schools struggling with short staffing
In his memo, Superintendent Glover said all students have continued to receive high-quality instruction but with a minimum number of staff necessary to run the county’s schools. As of Monday the district reported it had 72 students that tested positive, 188 school-related quarantines, and 18 staff infected.
“While we are not having huge increases in COVID among our faculty, our staff, like you, have felt the strain of determining who will stay home with their quarantined student,” he said.
Teachers will use Thursday to collaborate on instruction and professional development, while the district administration reassesses daily operations, Glover said. Teachers will have Friday off.
“We believe this closure will allow us to reset and proactively devise plans for continued learning for our students this year, whether in schools or at home on quarantine,” Glover said.