This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Even as public school students went back to school via the Internet, school officials learned Monday the state education department is recommending schools remain closed to May 1. Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns school superintendents indicated they were going along with the decision. The extension came as districts, teachers and students were figuring out online classes. Some students learned to their shock that teachers could follow exactly where else they were going on the Internet even while lessons were taught. District officials say some hiccups were apparent as thousands took to the new system. Putnam Superintendent Rick Surrency said the district would continue to work out kinks as the new education norm continues.
Putnam County businesses quickly responded to a request from the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce and the Putnam School District Friday to let students access their WiFi networks. Problems with Internet access were expected as students sought hot spots where they could connect and get lessons. Public libraries in Putnam as well as the Chamber and several of the Tax Collector offices made access available. More than a dozen businesses stepped up ranging from Crystal Cove Resort to City Coin Laundry to The Oaks Country Club to Beck Auto.
For April the Putnam Community Food Pantry held every first Thursday of the month is being cancelled. St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Palatka hosts the monthly event.
Don’t believe everything you see on Facebook. Latest fake news is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is fining people for fishing. It isn’t so. They are enforcing the rule that people in boats must stay 50 feet apart. That comes with a fine for those who don’t obey the rules. Some people reportedly have been breaking the rules about distance and having no more than 10 to a boat. A sandbar at Browns Landing in Putnam County has long been a popular spot for gatherings especially for younger people and reports are a number were there Sunday. Expect FWC to be watching that closely.
Boat ramps continue to be open in St. Johns and Putnam counties. Flagler County parks are closed but some boat ramps are open. That should continue as long as people obey social distancing rules although some parking areas are reportedly crowded with people in cars and that could lead to problems.
A St. Augustine High School’s head athletic trainer has been arrested for allegedly filming a female student changing clothes. Darrell Andrew Crews, 38, was arrested Sunday and made bail on Monday. Superintendent Tim Forson said he was “appalled by the behavior of Mr. Crews.” He’s recommending termination of Crews. The victim, now an adult, was filmed several times. Crews recently sent her a screen shot asking if she knew about the photo. He later ended up sending her 25 text messages asking her to get rid of the photo and tell no one. She informed authorities.
Putnam County’s coronavirus count Monday went up to 13 people infected with the virus. The latest is a 50-year-old Palatka woman. Flagler County has 14 and St. Johns County 56. Testing is available but only if people show symptoms. Those include symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Also, being around someone diagnosed with coronavirus and being 65 plus years old, having underlying health conditions and being a health care worker or first responder.
Stacey Manning, who was county attorney for Putnam County, has a new job. He’s deputy county attorney for Volusia County and is in DeLand. Manning was hired in 2015 in Putnam and served as interim county administrator for part of that period. After repeated disagreements with Commissioner Jeff Rawls, Manning turned in his resignation in March of last year. A county attorney hired after him also quit and the post is waiting to be filled permanently.
Farmers are among those feeling the sting from coronavirus concerns. County Line, the very popular vegetable stand on the Putnam-St. Johns line, is closing as of today. Owners Brad and Kelly Bland made the decision reluctantly but say it’s in the best interest of employees, customers and their health. “Corn will be ready soon, so we’ll certainly be back,” wrote the family in a Facebook post. They’ve been in business 54 years and this is only the second time they’ve closed. The first was in 1983 when a hard freeze killed produce. Other stands have or are closing with farmer’s markets in St. Johns taking a hard hit now that public gatherings are curtailed. For blueberry farmers in the Putnam and Alachua areas the coronavirus is leaving them uncertain what to do. Many u-pick-‘em operations will have to make a decision in the next month as the berries ripen. The annual Bostwick Blueberry Festival set for the end of April was canceled several weeks ago.