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Nassau County teacher, parent says it's your responsibility to keep others safe while back at school

Without a mask mandate, teacher Melissa Carr and parent Rebecca McKinney hopes everyone knows when to stay home if they are feeling sick.

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — It's the last Friday before kids go back to school in Nassau County. It's safe to say that we all hoped by this time COVID-19 would be a thing of the past. 

It’s not, and schools will have safety protocols in place that you need to know about. 

Some requirements in place last year are gone. In Nassau County schools, masks are encouraged and not required. Schools will also get out an hour early on Wednesday for cleaning, and dismissals will be staggered to help social distance.

The worry from some is how other people's actions could impact their family's health.

”I have two kids," said Rebecca McKinney. "My son Matthew is going to be in Fernandina Beach Middle School as a freshman this year… I’m sorry. I’m sorry! Fernandina Beach High School! It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around my baby being in high school.”

Her daughter is in 5th grade. McKinney is like so many parents getting ready for another school year.

“Except this year, we kind of know what we are walking into," McKinney said. "Last year was kind of scary. The kids were kind of trepidatious with the whole mask thing… but this year having you know gone to the orientation.. it just doesn’t feel as scary.”

Inside one of the schools, teacher Melissa Carr shows First Coast News her classroom. The plexiglass is gone, but she says it feels eerily similar to last year.

“We’re just all worried," Carr admitted. "We’ve lost a lot of teachers because of their concern coming back to a safe environment. It’s sad.”

They both agree it comes down to individual responsibility to keep others safe and that worries them.

“We don’t know if a family has had it. Whether they self report it," Carr said. "If they don’t self report then there is no way for us to know so our kids come in and they could be infected without knowing it and pass it on to someone else.”

“That would be a concern," agreed McKinney. "Just people’s carelessness.”

Carr is the vice president of the Nassau County Teacher’s Association union. She says one thing she is fighting for is to bring back COVID pay for teachers so if they get sick, they can have paid leave. She says the district did not bring that back this year.

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