The Gulf County School Board chose proactive to reactive Tuesday when it comes to the coronavirus.
With the announcement of the first two cases of the COVID-19 virus in Florida and the governor declaring a public health emergency while urging local communities to be prepared, school board members followed the recommendations of Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton.
Norton said the district’s responsibility was to ensure as well as possible that students and employees are safe as possible the rest of the school year.
And the coronavirus outbreak arrives as the district has entered into the initial phase of standardized testing, re-takes.
Norton said there were four components to his plan.
“We have 80 or 90 days until the school year ends, let’s end with everybody healthy,” Norton said.
He added that with any flu season, the chances are high that at some point the virus will spread into Gulf County.
And, ultimately, it should play out as with any flu outbreak with the changing of the seasons.
“It doesn’t do any good to panic, we can’t control it,” Norton said. “It is what it is.
“A fortunate thing is it does not appear to be hitting younger folks. Like anything it will run its course.”
The first step Norton suggested was signage around the grounds of all schools urging precautions to avoid passing germs and detailing that there is yet no vaccine for the coronavirus.
Norton said the district would also purchase 66 hand sanitizers and the liquid for them, enough to cover all four schools.
Those were to be delivered Wednesday.
Norton said the district was advised that if it could find the appropriate cleaning supplies available, it should snap them up because supplies were already running short.
A third component of the plan is for the district’s custodial service will undertake a deep cleaning of the schools in the coming weeks, beginning this weekend.
The work will be expedited when Spring Break arrives in a couple of weeks.
The cleaning will entail a focus on “high-touch” areas such as desks, doors, white or chalk boards and rest rooms.
Locker rooms will bring additional attention.
Norton noted the district had been through a similar drill recently.
The deep-cleaning, which will cost the district about $4,000, will be similar to that performed five years ago when a viral outbreak with links to meningitis forced the closing of schools for an extended weekend and cancellation of extracurricular activities.
The fourth leg of Norton’s initiative was to purchase at least two electro-static cleaning machines which would allow for more efficient germ and virus removal from classrooms.
The district will seek four; one for each school, if they are available but Norton said due to the work of the district’s custodial company, the district was in line to receive at least two.
“I think we need to take these proactive steps to protect our kids and employees,” Norton said.
The School Board unanimously supported the plan while agreeing to cap the spending at $20,000 unless brought back to the board.
“I think we are being smart with doing that,” said board chair Cindy Belin.