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Columbia County Report: August 13

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 9:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) - COVID-19 has caused leaders in Columbia County to make changes to education and testing sites.

The Columbia County Health Department is moving its mobile testing site to a place with a little more room. Testing will now be conducted at the Southside Sports complex on Southwest Bascom Norris Drive.

Traffic congestion around the downtown Wilson Park location made the move necessary.

“As the community started to open back up that became a traffic hazard in downtown Lake City. We would have 200-300 cars coming through during the testing period and we were getting back up around City Hall around the courthouse and the main thoroughfare there at marion street and 90,” Administrator of Columbia County Public Health, Tom Moffses said.

In addition to the Wednesday-Saturday drive up testing at the sports complex testing is also being done at the Hamilton County Health Department on Thursday mornings. Walkup testing does occur seven days a week through the Columbia County Emergency Management office. That testing is done at the Dollar General at State Road 100 and U.S 441.

Negotiations for a new contract for teachers are underway between Columbia County Schools and the union representing the county’s teachers. The Columbia Teachers’ Association presented a memorandum of understanding at a meeting this week. The proposal lays out provisions for medical leave, safety protocols, and teacher preparation as schools get ready to reopen amidst the ongoing public health crisis. If agreed upon, the plan would allow school employees to take any leave related to COVID-19 without dipping into their personal or sick leave.

The proposal also sets out provisions for workplace safety, including sanitization, physical distancing, and PPE availability. Employee training would advise teachers on how to enforce safety protocols in their classrooms, as well as prepare them for conducting their classes online if necessary.

Columbia County schools are scheduled to reopen for the fall semester on August 24.

This week the faculty and staff at Florida Gateway College have been preparing for the first day of the fall on-line and in-person classes next Monday. The week long professional development activities include dealing with a number of instructional challenges as well as student success.

“We’re doing a lot of intensive training about COVID with the faculty and staff but also professional development on an assortment of challenges that the faculty have in the classroom and help them develop their professional development skills to teach our students. But also one of the things we decided to do this year was also have some fun and this is one of the events that are taking place that is happening twice this week, oil painting for fun where our art faculty are teaching our other faculty how to paint oil works,” President of Florida Gateway College, Lawrence Barrett said.

Development sessions have been available to all staff, either in person or virtually. Activities conclude with a socially distant convocation with the entire staff in the college’s gymnasium Friday morning.

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