Destin Elementary dealing with COVID-19 pains

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Okaloosa County schools have had to deal with growing pains in the past, but in 2020 the schools are dealing with another kind of pain — COVID-19.

Last week, Fort Walton Beach High School sent home 177 based on "student contact," according to weekly statistics posted on the school district's website.

Destin Elementary Principal Joe Jannazo

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The school reported 11 students had tested positive for the virus and, while less than five staff members had contracted the coronavirus, seven had been in contact with an infected person.

And elementary schools are not exempt from the virus.

Destin Elementary saw 77 of its students exposed to the virus, Ruckel Middle School 69 and Edge Elementary 22.  

Destin Elementary School, like other schools in Okaloosa 
 County, is dealing with COVID-19 cases.

Contact occurs when a person spends 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, according to School District spokesman Steve Horton. Florida Department of Health protocol requires a 14-day quarantine for students or staff who come into contact with a positive COVID case.

Destin Elementary Principal Joe Jannazo said the district is in "unprecedented times."

"Handling situations where positive cases would be out were something that we were prepared for and the percentage of all positive cases in relation to our total population in the building since Aug. 31st is near 1%," Jannazo wrote in an email. "All things considered, I know the work the district and school staff have put in to provide a healthy environment continues to help."

Destin Elementary had nine cases reported from Oct. 4-10, including four students, one teacher and four unknown. Seven of the nine reportedly showed symptoms.

Nevertheless, Jannazo said, "Having a greater emphasis on a culture of health and safety continues to be at the forefront along with our focus on high-quality instruction."

When staff members are out because of quarantine protocols, Jannazo said he is confident in the interim staff.

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"We have regular substitutes that do a tremendous job of maintaining continuity for our students and when we cannot find enough substitutes, our hard-working staff develops options to provide coverage while maintaining many of the new social distancing and health-related policies in place," he said.

In Santa Rosa and Escambia counties to the west, elementary schools fared well with one or no cases reported the same week, with the exception of Pace Primary School, which had six cases and Gulf Breeze Elementary, three.

To the east in Bay County, Cedar Grove and Lynn Haven elementary schools each had three reported cases for the same week.