Coronavirus: Carswell reassures parents in video clip, says education secondary to students’ health

  • Superintendent Lex Carswell addresses the district in a video Tuesday.
    Superintendent Lex Carswell addresses the district in a video Tuesday.
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Hoping to put parents’ minds at ease, Columbia County’s top school official shared a brief video address on social media Tuesday regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and a plan to use distance learning for classes. 

In a three-minute speech posted on YouTube, Superintendent Lex Carswell reassured parents that the School District was placing students’ safety above even education. 

“I felt that with everything happening and the uncertainty in our world, the parents just needed to see us from the district office speaking from the heart about our priorities during this time,” Carswell told the Lake City Reporter in a phone interview.

The video was uploaded to the School District’s newly created YouTube channel, CCS ColumbiaK12. As of Tuesday afternoon, it was the first and only piece of content on the account, which was set up that same day. 

The clip starts with Carswell introducing himself and saying he wished to provide an update on how the district is handling the situation. 

“While your child’s education is important, that is not our main concern at this time,” he said in the video. “Their safety is paramount.”

Carswell asked parents to join him in following guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control.

“Practice the CDC recommendations for a healthy lifestyle during this crisis that is gripping our nation and community,” he said. “Like adults, our children see and hear the news about the COVID-19 outbreak, and they may have concerns during these uncertain times. We all play an important role in helping our children cope with what they hear in a way that is honest and accurate, to help minimize any anxiety they may be feeling.”

All schools will remain closed through at least April 15, but a distance-learning experiment is set to begin March 30. Teachers will contact parents in the coming days to go over the plan, Carswell said.

“Please wait for your school to call you with additional detailed information,” he said. 

Parents should ensure that schools have the most up-to-date contact information, he added.

Carswell said he wanted to be “transparent” about some of the challenges expected to come with the distance-learning plan. 

“While we are prepared for this new model of student instruction, I want all parents to know, as with anything new, there will be bumps in the process,” he said. “However, just like education and traditional school settings, it is imperative that you work with your child’s teacher and principle as they quickly work to remedy any issues that you may face. Communication will be key to making this work for you and your child.” 

“Just as I asked our teachers and staff, I ask that each of you handle this new normal with patience and understanding,” he added. “Helping your child navigate these waters during this time may be uncomfortable, but please treat yourself, your children and their teachers with compassion and grace.”

The district will provide free breakfast and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and certain locations, Carswell also said in the video. More information is available at columbia.k12.fl.us. 

“We are one district, one team, and I hope that each of you stays safe and healthy,” he said, concluding the speech. “I look forward to students resuming their learning from home on March 30. Thank you, and God Bless.”