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Guess what happened in this Florida school district when schools reopened

Published Aug 20th, 2020 2:10PM EDT
Coronavirus school reopenings
Image: Oksana Kuzmina/Adobe

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  • One Florida school district has already been forced to quarantine more than 300 students and teachers due to potential exposure to the novel coronavirus — schools had been open for just one week.
  • The school district’s superintendent blames parents for sending their kids to school before their COVID-19 test results came back.
  • The district also revealed that being exposed to someone with coronavirus symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in the classroom will be quarantined.

In the latest sign that reopening schools in the United States with a pandemic still raging was never a good idea, one Florida school district has already had to quarantine more than 300 students and teachers due to possible cases of COVID-19 in the classrooms. According to the local news network WPTV, data from the Martin County School District shows that 292 students and 14 teachers from five schools in the district have been sent home since school started last Tuesday. 231 of the students are in high school, and 61 are in elementary school.

Speaking to school board members on Tuesday, Superintendent Laurie Gaylord and other district officials suggested that some of the blame should be placed on parents who are sending their kids to school before they have made sure that they aren’t infected with the virus. “I want to reinforce the fact that people need to take the personal responsibility in this,” Gaylord said. “If your children are sick, please do not send them to school.”

Martin County School District’s Pandemic Response Team explained that some parents have been sending their kids to school after they were tested for the virus, but before the results have been returned. When the tests do come back positive, the children have already exposed their classmates and teachers to the virus, at which point the school has no choice but to send everyone who came into contact with the child home.

“If anyone in your household is COVID-19 positive, do not send your children to school,” said Carol Ann Vitani, health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Martin County. “The whole household is on quarantine.”

Despite such a large number of students and teachers being quarantined in such a short period of time, board member Christia Li Roberts explained on Tuesday that the school district’s guidelines don’t necessarily ensure that someone showing symptoms of COVID-19 will lead to everyone in the classroom being quarantined.

“It isn’t a symptom that gets you a ticket home,” Roberts said. “It has to have the word ‘positive’ in it, whether it’s either a positive case or a presumed positive, meaning that you had contact with a person with a positive case and you’re showing symptoms. But just symptoms by itself does not get your class, everybody walking out the door and going home.”

Reopening schools never made much sense in the first place, but this Florida school district is emblematic of just how difficult it is to keep students and teachers safe from infection. Even if everyone is following the rules and being as careful as they possibly can be, all it takes is one mistake to create an outbreak.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.