Over 400 students left in-person learning in two weeks and over 100 students, staff went into quarantine due to COVID-19.  Those high numbers led to the decision to revert to 100% virtual learning this week in the Clay school system.

The recent outbreak of COVID cases in the county has hit the school system especially hard, according to superintendent William Sexton.

Staffing issues is becoming a serious problem.

“We simply do not have enough substitute teachers,” he said.  “As of Tuesday morning, we have dropped to 80 in quarantine and 15 of those are staff.”

Sexton says the district has been on short supply of substitute teachers and rely mainly on retired teachers to fill the void.

“Our retired teachers are at an age where they’re more vulnerable to complications with COVID,” he said.  “They’re choosing not to be active substitute teachers due to this and I don’t blame them.”

Clay started in-person learning two weeks.  At that time 50% of the student body chose to return to the classroom.  Since then, the district has dropped to 40%.

“We lost students from in-person at an alarming rate,” he said.  

According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, Clay County is now designated in the “red” which requires in-person learning to be suspended.  Sexton canceled school for this week on Friday after seeing over 100 go into quarantine involved with the school system.

“This will be a day to day, week to week decision on when we can return to in-person,” he said.  “Nobody wants in-person learning more than I do.”

Clay County has the eighth highest COVID rate per capita at 43%.

The superintendent says his staff is working closely with the local health department.

“We are in contact with them constantly getting new numbers involved in the school system,” he said. 

A decision on when in-person learning resumes will depend on how COVID numbers trend.

“If we go down in cases obviously that will lead to a quicker return of in-person learning,” he said.  “But if cases continue to rise, we will stay on virtual until the number trends downward.

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