Palatka City Commission holds a special called meeting today at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 201 N. Second St. Commissioners will be discussing the city’s direction on coronavirus. Last week City Manager Bill Shanahan had announced all meetings of the city were being canceled.
Former Palatka City Commissioner Allegra Kitchens has formally announced plans to seek the commission seat now held by outgoing commissioner Mary Lawson Brown. Kitchens, who still regularly attends commission meetings, served for nine years before being defeated in 2015. She retired from the Putnam County Property Appraiser’s office. David Parsons, who is with St. Johns River Water Management District, announced last week he was seeking Brown’s seat. Brown is retiring after 35 years on the commission.
Flagler County now has three people who have tested positive for corona virus. The latest is a 45-year-old Flagler Beach police officer who has gone into self-isolation. The police department is monitoring its officers.
More changes unfolding as governments look for ways to cope with the coronavirus. Gov. Rick DeSantis has put into effect an executive order that mandates anyone arriving on a flight from New York City and surrounding areas go on self-quarantine for two weeks. More than 100 flights arrive daily in Florida. As of today neighboring Alachua County is on a stay-at-home and closing of non-essential businesses mandate issued by the county. Gainesville already is having to deal with the closing of the University of Florida and Santa Fe State College. A burn ban also has been issued in the county because of dry weather and the virus.
School districts in Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties are preparing for next week when students go back to school – virtual school, that is. While districts are used to some virtual classes the response to the coronavirus has meant switching all classes to the Internet plus supplying additional materials and computers to students who need them. Problems are expected with setting up hot spots to provide Internet service in some areas. The state Department of Education is providing teachers with training online this week.
While most classes will resume March 30, some charter schools are already back in session. That’s the case with Putnam Academy of Arts and Sciences on Palm Avenue in Palatka where classes started back online Monday. The charter school said staff has voluntarily used a portion of spring break to develop their own Instructional Continuity Plan.
All three districts will be providing breakfast and lunch to students who need them. Drive-thru locations at schools and bus stops are being used to distribute the pre-packaged meals.
A couple of Putnam County educators are doing their part today to help out their class. Teachers Amber Williams and Mrs. Latoya at Kelley Smith Elementary School gave their students a heads-up on Facebook to look on their porches today. Students found goody bags from the teachers including a book of word finds and treats. “Hopefully it will ease the minds of the kids during this uncertain time and make them smile,” wrote Williams on Facebook. The two paid for and put together the bags.