MARION COUNTY, Fla. – The Marion County School District is preparing for two-thirds of the student body to return to the classroom while only one-third opted for online instruction.
Implementing safety guidelines for about 43,000 students and their teachers is something newly appointed superintendent Dr. Diane Gullett said is very costly.
The district will put $5.9 million towards technology like hot spots, webcams and laptops for students learning remotely. An additional $4.7 million will be spent on PPE and cleaning materials for schools.
The district said federal and state grants will cover the $10.6 million price tag.
"It costs money, it certainly does and we're utilizing those CARES funds. We're hoping it carries us through the beginning of the year. And we will have to see how it goes after that," said Dr. Gullett.
Dr. Gullett said delaying the start date for schools to no later than Aug. 24, will give the district more time to train teachers and staff on safety protocols to help keep them and their students healthy during the school year.
It will also give the district more time to find teachers. Right now there are about 100 vacancies.
As the summer learning program wraps up in Marion County, Dr. Gullett said she is confident they can reopen schools safely.
"Face coverings was the first thing I noticed during the summer programs... that the students were wearing them. Some teachers thought they might have a challenge, they did not," said Dr. Gullett. "They are engaging as we would hope they would be, and they're learning in this environment. It's just reassurance that we are doing the right things and taking great precautions."
According to the district, some students who were sick or exhibited symptoms were sent home from the summer program but there were no confirmed cases of the virus for students. However, several employees tested positive, but the district said no students were impacted.