FERNANDINA BEACH WEATHER

Districts await state protocols as Florida schools contend with “inevitable’ COVID-19 outbreaks

By John Haughey
The Center Square
August 20, 2020

(The Center Square) – The Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) is waiting for the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to provide standards and protocols on how to handle students and staff diagnosed with COVID-19.


Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran
Mark Wallheiser / AP

Superintendents want “clear and articulate processes for the role of the Department of Health as the lead in case investigation, contact tracing and quarantine direction, length and implementation” to be “consistent across all school districts,” FADSS President and Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego wrote in a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

During a conference call with superintendents last week, Corcoran said those protocols are being developed, and he echoed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call to act “surgically” when “inevitable” COVID-19 cases are detected among students and staff.

“The reality is that all of you are likely to have a COVID case,” he said. “Before you get to the point of closing a classroom, we want to have that conversation with you.”

In the interim, Corcoran suggested districts should quarantine only portions of classes or students who have been in contact with infected students.

Of the 13 districts that reopened schools last week for in-class instruction, at least five – Bradford, Manatee, Martin, Seminole and Suwannee – are dealing with COVID-19 cases among students and staff with their own quarantine and contact-tracing responses.

The Martin County School District reported Monday it had sent 151 elementary and high school students home after they either tested positive for the coronavirus or showed symptoms of COVID-19,.

The district announced Tuesday another 231 students at two high schools have been quarantined to remote learning for 14 days.

The district said most of the students who have tested positive travel to school on a specific bus route and are members of a swim team.

“Martin County is becoming the epicenter of school openings gone wrong and the prime example of why ignoring health and science guidance will be disastrous for school reopening,” the Florida Education Association said in a statement, noting at least 12 staff, including two bus drivers, also had been diagnosed with the virus.

The Bradford County School District reported Monday – its first day of in-class instruction – that “less than 10” students had tested positive for the coronavirus, but it was sending 78 other students home as a precaution.

Suwannee reported three teachers and a student tested positive, Manatee reported staff in at least nine schools had been exposed and in Seminole, an elementary school grade level was in quarantine.

According to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), of the 579,932 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March, about 46,200 are children.

Of the 9,893 COVID-19 deaths in the state since March, seven have been children. The youngest was a 9-year-old girl in Putnam County.

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