ST. JOHNS COUNTY -- For some parents on the First Coast, locally-transmitted cases of Zika may be a distant reality on the seemingly endless list of weekly worries. The St. Johns County School Board doesn’t think that makes it any less of an important issue when it comes to student safety though.
On August 9, 2016 parents all across St. Johns County had the opportunity to read Superintendent Joe Joyner’s welcome back letter. Among the usual words of encouragement and the announcement of 400 new staff members, Joyner mentions an amendment to the medication policy outlined in School Board Rule 5.15.
In addition, we will temporarily modify the medication policy found in School Board Rule 5.15 to allow parents at the elementary level to bring insect repellent to the school with their child’s name written on the container for application by staff before going outside. We will continue our policy for middle and high school students in that they may self-carry and self-apply insect repellent with written permission from the parent. – Joe Joyner
Joyner also mentions in the letter that St. Johns County schools will continue to adhere to the state-wide initiative of dumping any and all standing water that is found on grounds.
First Coast News spoke with several parents at Palencia Elementary School located in northern St. Johns County about the risk of Zika and the amended mediation policy. Even though the number of Zika infections continues to rise on semi-daily basis, the panic-induced psychosis seen in South Florida residents hasn’t reached this far up the coast, yet.
“I’ve been seeing it on the news, but I really haven’t thought much about,” Palencia Elementary School parent, Brad Morse said. “I think my wife would probably think more about it than I would. She [wife] does pack her with OFF spray and I know the teachers do here at Palencia as well.”
Other local school districts around Jacksonville recommend that parents send their kids to school in long-sleeved shirts and pants, despite the heat and humidity that will blanket Florida for at least another month. And while the “Spill the Water” campaign highly encourages a vigilant attitude towards standing water, ponds and lakes that frequent schools around North Florida pose a likely problem.
According to the St. Johns County School Board at least 80 parents district-wide have taken advantage of the change in policy and started sending their students to school with repellent on hand. Which is understandable, as the consequences of being infected with a mosquito-borne illness isn’t something certain parents are willing to relive.
“You know, it is a concern for me,” Sara Powers, mother of a Palencia Elementary School student said. “I actually had West Nile a few years ago. So, even though that was a small concern to me, it still appeared in my life. So, for me, it is a real danger. I’m not paranoid or worried about it, but people can get sick from it and I’d rather it not be my child.”
Due to the potential for danger, most districts have banned students from bringing aerosol cans of mosquito repellent to school. The St. Johns County School Board has alleviated the risk factor by ensuring that all insect repellent be kept in safe area and is only applied in an open-air environment by an adult member of the faculty.
“St. Johns County, I believe has taken a very proactive response to this by allowing parents to have the children bring the supplies into school so that they can protect themselves from the mosquitoes,” said Palencia Principal Allen Anderson.
After speaking with a majority of the county school boards in the immediate vicinity of the Greater Jacksonville Area, only Baker and Clay County have confirmed the permission of repellent on elementary school grounds, just as long as it is treated as any other form of medication.
(© 2016 WTLV)