43 Escambia County Employees Are Currently COVID-19 Positive, 90 More Awaiting Results

July 9, 2020

Escambia County reported an increase in the number of employees that are currently COVID-19 positive.

On Wednesday, there were 43 positive employees, or 2.15% of the workforce, up from 35 on Tuesday. Another 90 employees, 4.51%, of the county’s workforce of 1,197, were awaiting their test results.

The latest data shows 21 positive corrections employee out of a workforce of 574, one in Animal Services, two in ECAT, two in Human Resources and Risk Management, seven lifeguards, eight EMS workers and one in emergency dispatch. The numbers were current cases of Wednesday, not historical cumulative counts.

NorthEscambia.com file photo.

Century Looking To Lease Large Industrial Building

July 9, 2020

The Town of Century is seeking lease proposals for a 40,390 square foot building in the town’s industrial park.

Known as the Helicopter Technology Building — named for the defunct company that was based there — it has been empty since 2008.

The town is still footing the bill for utilities, insurance, maintenance and other costs for the vacant property, and they are looking to turn it into a positive cash flow and create jobs along the way.

Lease proposals will be accepted until 1 p.m. on Thursday, August 6. Proposal requirements include the proposed monthly lease fee, desired start day, and number of employees associated with the proposed lease. The town council will review the proposals and reserves the right to reject any or all of them. Click or tap here for the complete requirements and procedure (pdf).

In 2017, the building was appraised for $550,000 with a fair market rent of $80,000 per year ($6,667 per month). The office and warehouse space has full climate control, sprinkler system, new HVAC and energy efficient lighting.

Last Potential Lessor Was Rejected

The most recent company seeking to lease the building was rejected by the town council.

In May 2019, West Florida Gin Manager Robert Earl Godwin and businessman Larry Baxley, who were in the process of setting up North Escambia Warehouse and Storage, LLC, made a preliminary lease-to-own offer on the town-owned building  at $4,000 per month for five years, for a total of $240,000. The company offered an $8,000 deposit, pay the first month’s rent in advance, and pay for any upgrades to the building. At the end of the lease term, they would have had the opportunity to buy the building for $100. The building would have been used primarily for cotton storage.

A motion by then council member Ben Boutwell to proceed with negotiations and work on an agreement failed on a 3-2 vote with council members James Smith, Sandra McMurray-Jackson and Luis Gomez voting against. The dissenters expressed objections against the business because it would likely not create any jobs.

“I don’t see the benefit for us,” Smith said at the time. “Where’s the employment?”

Smith and Gomez expressed concerns at the May 2019 meeting that if the council were to lease the building below market value, the town would not have any available industrial space if another company wanted to located in Century with new jobs.

“Someday it could produce jobs, even it’s 10-15 jobs for Century,” Gomez said.

“Let’s talk about y’all’s track record and my track record,” Baxley said after pointing out that no company had seriously considered the building in the past decade but he had developed several similar properties.  “For 46 years now, I’ve been making payroll.”

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Escambia Schools Announce Complete Reopening Plans; Parents Must Choose From Three Education Plans

July 8, 2020

The Escambia County School District has unveiled their plans for reopening schools at full capacity in August, as mandated by the Florida Department of Education.

The plan was announced Wednesday afternoon by Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, as he noted that six foot social distancing simply won’t be possible with the “traditional” school option.

Three Choices for Each Student

Parents will choose between a traditional return to campus with in-person instruction, virtual learning with a connection to enrolled school and online virtual school through Escambia Virtual Academy.

“These options for our students and parents are by no means perfect,” Thomas said, “hopefully, by providing as many educational opportunities as possible, essential instruction will move forward during such unprecedented circumstances.”

Those options, in more detail, are:

Traditional -

This model represents a return to the school campus and the classroom where students will interact directly with their teacher(s) and classmates.  If an option is not selected in FOCUS for a student, then this will be the default selection. The school day will follow the standard bell times and standard schedule that includes all the core classes and other subject areas.  In short, it represents a return to the traditional school environment – with several significant changes involving enhanced health and safety precautions.

Remote Learning -

The remote learning model is designed for families who would like to maintain their connection to their enrolled school, but don’t yet feel comfortable sending their student(s) back to school in August.  Students will attend school remotely, following the standard school schedule and bell times.  The lessons, assignments and grading will be similar to traditional school.

“This is not what we did in April and May,” Thomas said. “Students will have a schedule.”

Virtual School -

The virtual model is ideal for students who wish to have more control over their learning path and pace, and for whom a flexible daily schedule is important.  In this learning model, students often work on assignments in a virtual environment during non-traditional hours and maintain contact with their teacher and classmates using web-based class sessions, email, text messages and telephone calls.

Once parents have reviewed the options available, a selection must be made to choose an option which best meets their student’s needs by a deadline of Monday, July 20, 2020.  Parents and guardians will utilize their parent/student FOCUS account to choose this selection.  It is important to note that the instructional model chosen will place the student within the selected learning option for an entire (9-week) grading period.  Every effort will be made to ensure students will start the 2020-2021 school year ready for success.

Parents will have until Monday, July 20 to choose the option that is best for their student by clicking or tapping here. If no selection is made, the student will be placed in the traditional option.

Back to School Safety

Students will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks, and they will be expected to socially distance. At the elementary school level where social distancing is difficult at best. Students will spend most of their day only interacting with students in their class.

Dining will take place in the classroom, cafeteria, and outdoors. Dining in the cafeteria will be limited in an effort to promote social distancing. Hand sanitizer will be available at all points of meal service.

School bus operators, school bus assistants, and students will all be encouraged to wear masks while aboard the bus. All buses will undergo disinfection of commonly touched surfaces at least twice per day as per District guidelines. Hand sanitizer will be available on buses for students and staff.

Most sporting events will have a smaller, “more select crowd” with less exposure. Certain gatherings will not be allowed during the first semester but will be reevaluated for the second semester. Crowd sizes will be governed by state and local and state guideless. All sports will be offered during the 2020-2021 school year, but with restrictions.

Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL

Now that we know what the options are, what comes next?

Take time to familiarize yourself with the options, and then choose the option that works best for your student. After reading the descriptions of the options, you can review the Frequently Asked Questions.  When you are ready to make your choice, go to the blue Select an Option button.  You will be directed to the Focus login page where you will login to your parent/student account to make your selection.  If you have more than one student, you will have the opportunity to make a selection for each one. The deadline for making your choice is Monday, July 20.

Will parents and volunteers be allowed on campus?

For quarter 1 parents, volunteers, mentors, and visitors will not be present on campus. This will be reevaluated each quarter.

Will students be expected to take FSA?

Yes.  At this time the Florida DOE has indicated plans to test in the spring.  All options (Traditional, Remote, Virtual) will be expected to participate.

Will there be an open house this year?

No, there will not be an open house this year.

Will students be able to go on field trips?

There will be no field trips in the 1st quarter.  This decision will be reevaluated each quarter.

Will parents be allowed to attend conferences on campus?

Yes.  Face to Face conferences are permitted, however, parents may also request virtual conferences.

Will parents be permitted to walk their student(s) to class?

No.  For the safety of students and staff, no visitors will be allowed on campus.

Will there be orientations this year?

Orientations will be performed on a limited basis.  Consult your school’s website for specific information regarding orientation.

If I do not make a selection for my student, in which option will they be placed?

The Traditional Option will be the default selection.

LEARNING MODEL OPTIONS

Once I choose an option, can I change my mind later?

A continuous and consistent learning environment is best for student success. However, parents and students might have compelling reasons to seek a transition from one option to another.  For the sake of continuity, transfers from one learning option to another may only occur after the completion of a grading period.

Will each option offer the same classes?

Core classes will be available under all three options. The Escambia Virtual Academy (EVA) and Remote Learning options will have a limited selection of electives. These will differ from courses available in the Traditional model.

Is the Remote Learning option identical to the distance learning we experienced during the final months of the school year?

No.  It will feature a robust curriculum with an assignment load similar to the Traditional model.  Based on feedback from students and parents, there is a clearer idea of which factors contribute to greater student success. Those factors include more frequent real-time interaction between students and teachers. Also, the Remote Learning model will incorporate standard school schedules and bell times, leading to a learning experience more connected to teachers.

Under the Traditional model, will elementary students be able to have recess?

Yes. Recess will be organized to emphasize social distancing. Playground equipment will be sanitized between use.

What options are available to children in the Voluntary Pre-K program?

The Traditional model is the only option available to children in the Voluntary Pre-K program.

If I choose the Escambia Virtual Academy (EVA) or Remote Learning option will my student be able to participate in athletics?

Yes, students will have the same opportunities to participate in athletics at their zoned school.

Will IB be offered through one of the online learning models?

Yes. IB will be available through the Remote Learning model, as well as the Traditional model.

Has the start date for the 2020-2021 school year changed?

No. The first day of school for students for all options/models will be on August 10.

If my student is enrolled in Dual Enrollment part/full time what option should I choose?

You will select the Traditional Option.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Will students wear masks in classrooms?

Students are encouraged to wear masks or cloth face coverings.

Will students be expected to socially distance?

Students will be socially distanced to the extent possible. At the elementary school level, where social distancing will be extremely difficult, students will spend most of the school day interacting only with students in their class. By limiting their exposure to a small number of students, the chance of infection is reduced.

What steps will be taken to ensure that surfaces are clean in classrooms?

Maintenance workers and school custodians will clean frequently touched surfaces throughout the day and conduct overall cleanings at the conclusion of every day. Other non-custodial staff members will be expected to do their part keeping surfaces clean and will be provided spray bottles and microfiber cloths for additional cleaning.  Teachers will have access to cleaning supplies for their classrooms.  Student hand washing will be frequent.

What other steps are being taken to ensure a healthy environment?

Escambia Schools will partner with parents in educating students on the importance of handwashing, hygiene, and social distancing. Hand sanitizer will be made available in classrooms and workplaces. The schedule for changing air conditioning filters has been accelerated.  Water fountains are being retrofitted to be bottle fillers.  Temperature checks will be performed on staff and students as appropriate.

What will my student’s school do if a classmate or staff member is infected with COVID-19?

Communication will be sent to parents and staff that if they are exhibiting symptoms, they should not come to school or report to work. If a student exhibits symptoms at school he/she will be taken to the school clinic and the parent or guardian will be notified.

What if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County will notify the district if a student or staff member tests positive. Parents of students in the affected class will be notified, while not specifically identifying the student or staff member. The Health Department will conduct the appropriate notifications of individuals who have been in contact with the person infected. The Reopening plan is designed to limit the chances of infection and to limit the disruption to a school or workplace in the event of an infection.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Will the district be completing Child Find and evaluation when school reopens?

Escambia County Schools will continue to identify, locate, and evaluate students suspected of having a disability and needing special education and related services. At the same time, being mindful that students have been displaced from their typical learning environment when initiating the referral process. Some evaluation procedures can be completed in remote learning situations. Some evaluations require in-person contact with students or observations of students in school settings. Escambia County Schools is conducting evaluations remotely and in-person while adhering to public health guidelines for the safety of students and staff.

How will Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings take place in the Fall?

Escambia County Schools is committed to providing families an opportunity to have meaningful participation in the special education process. Whether in-person or an alternative format, such as videoconferencing or by phone, IEP teams will partner with families to determine the most practical format to conduct IEP meetings.

Will students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Plans receive accommodations in EVA and Remote Learning?

All students attending EVA and Remote Learning will have access to many accommodations that naturally occur in the virtual setting. In addition, EVA and Remote Learning may be able to provide additional accommodations per a student’s IEP or Section 504 Plan if the accommodation(s) is/are applicable to the online educational environment. Please note that some accommodations may not be possible to implement in the online educational setting.

MEALS

What steps will be taken to limit exposure in the school cafeteria?

Dining will take place in the classroom, cafeteria, and outdoors. Dining in the cafeteria will be limited in an effort to promote social distancing. Hand sanitizer will be available at all points of meal service.

What steps will be taken to minimize frequent contact to surfaces during meal service?

All items will be individually packaged to minimize frequent contact to surfaces and facilitate grab and go meal service.  This will allow students to eat throughout the campus as appropriate.

TRANSPORTATION

What steps will be taken to limit exposure on school buses?

School bus operators, school bus assistants, and students will all be encouraged to wear masks while aboard the bus. All buses will undergo disinfection of commonly touched surfaces at least twice per day as per District guidelines. Hand sanitizer will be available on buses for students and staff.

Why are sporting events allowed and not pep rallies, dances, and back to school nights?

Most sporting events have a smaller, more select crowd, and therefore involve less exposure. At this time only certain gatherings will not be allowed 1st semester and will be re-evaluated for 2nd semester.

ATHLETICS

Will athletes be required to wear masks?

Not during competition or practice, but they will be encouraged to wear masks or cloth face coverings while riding the bus to and from the game.

Will parents still be allowed to attend games?

Yes.  Crowd capacity will be determined based on state and local guidelines.

Will sports still be offered next school year?

Yes. Sports will be offered in the 2020-2021 school year. The same sports will be offered as usual with some restrictions on social distancing, cleaning procedures, and masks (optional for athletes). Students will be encouraged to wear a mask on any bus trips to games.

If a student chooses the EVA or Remote Learning option are they able to try out for school sports?

Yes. If you choose the EVA option you can participate at your zoned school.  If you choose the Remote Learning option, you will be able to participate in sports at your enrolled school.

Will volunteer coaches be permitted?

Yes.  However, they will be subject to temperature checks and encouraged to wear a mask.

BAND

Will students wear masks in the band room?

Students will be encouraged to wear masks or face coverings when not playing instruments.

Will students be expected to socially distance in the band room?

Yes.  The band room will be arranged for social distancing and band students will adhere to the guidelines for social distancing as much as possible.  Rehearsals will be outdoors when appropriate.

Will band students travel to away football games?

During the first quarter, restricted travel to Escambia County and Santa Rosa County football games and band events can take place.  In some cases, only a pep band may be at the game.  This decision will be reevaluated each quarter.

Will students participate in concerts and performances?

Yes.  Performance opportunities are key to a student’s band experience.  For the first quarter, outdoor performances and live stream performances can occur.  This decision will be reevaluated each quarter.

Will band parents be able to chaperone and volunteer in the band?

Volunteers are not permitted during the school day.  After school, parents can be part of the band booster program if they have completed the ECSD volunteer paperwork and participate in a band COVID19 parent orientation.  Band booster parents will be encouraged to wear masks, practice social distancing, and volunteer with the same small group every time to limit exposure.

How have band uniforms been sanitized?

Band uniforms have been cleaned and sanitized following the manufacturers’ guidelines.

Three New COVID-19 Deaths In Escambia, One Additional In Santa Rosa

July 8, 2020

Three new COVID-19 deaths, including a 24-year old man, were reported Wednesday in Escambia County, and one additional death was reported in Santa Rosa County by the Florida Department of Health.

The Escambia County fatalities were a 69-year old female, 71-year old male and a 24-year old male; only one was a long-term care facility resident. The Santa Rosa death was a 61-year old male.

Escambia County cases increased 129 to 3,188 and Santa Rosa cases were up by 52 to 993.

Of the 763 test results returned on Monday, 13.1% were positive in Escambia County and 17.3% were positive from 248 tests in Santa Rosa County.

Of the 51 deaths in Escambia County, 37 have been long-term care facility residents or staff. There have been nine deaths in Santa Rosa County, seven of those at the Blackwater River Correctional Facility and none in long-term care facilities.

Statewide, there were 223,783 cases including 220,492 Florida residents. There have been 16,758 hospitalizations* and 3,889 deaths. The Florida Department of Health does not have a clear standard or definition of “recovered” and does not report a number of recovered individuals.

Escambia County cases:

Total cases — 3,188  (+129 since Tuesday)
Non-Florida residents — 472
Pensacola — 2,393 (+103)
Cantonment — 206 (+10)
Molino— 36 (+2)
Century — 17
Bellview — 7
McDavid — 7
Walnut Hill — 3
Perdido Key — 3
Hospitalizations: 131* (+11)
Deaths — 51  (+3)
Male — 1,226
Female — 1,489
Youngest — 0
Oldest — 105
Median Age — 36

Santa Rosa County cases:

Total cases — 993 (+52 since Tuesday)
Non-Florida residents — 8
Milton — 314 (+21)
Gulf Breeze — 197 (+7)
Navarre — 160 (+11)
Pace — 106 (+3)
Jay — 31 (+5)
Bagdad — 1 (+1)
Hospitalizations — 55* (+8)
Deaths — 10 (+1)
Male — 501
Female — 476
Youngest — 2 months
Oldest — 99
Median Age — 34

Florida cases:

Total cases — 223,783
Florida residents — 220,492
Deaths — 3,889
Hospitalizations — 16,758

*“Hospitalizations” is a count of all laboratory confirmed cases in which an inpatient hospitalization occurred at any time during the course of illness. These people may no longer be hospitalized. This number does not represent the number of COVID-19 positive persons currently hospitalized. The FDOH does not provide a count of patients currently hospitalized.