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Gulf County Schools cancel classes after a rise in COVID-19 related absences

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 8:13 PM CDT
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PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s only a couple of weeks into the fall semester at Port St. Joe High School, and yet on a weekday, it’s pretty much a ghost town. Students and faculty across the Gulf County school district are taking a short break from classes as the COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the area.

Superintendent Jim Norton said more than 15% of people across the district are quarantining, which is a number he said was too high.

“We’re not letting people get so far behind and the teachers so burnt out,” Norton said.

The district canceled classes starting Wednesday, September 1st, for an extra-long weekend.

“Seven days would let those who were exposed up through Tuesday have a chance to come back next Tuesday the day after labor day, healthy,” Norton said.

Norton said they prep for these situations. The district has 18 days built into the school calendar for things like hurricanes, storms, or in this case a pandemic.

Norton said some kids were falling behind. There were students with perfect attendance, while others have been out for more than ten days.

Port St. Joe High School Principal Sissy Godwin said teachers calling out sick has been stressful not only on the staff but on students as well.

“We can’t cover those classes, it becomes very draining for teachers to try to use their planning to fill in for other teachers,” Godwin said. “And students coming to the classroom quite frankly when that regular teacher that they depend on who knows their content is not present, a lot of times it’s not very productive.”

School leaders said they hope this gap gives everyone a chance to recharge and custodians a chance to deep clean.

Classes will resume the Tuesday after Labor Day.

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