Most Brevard students stay in class under new rule

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After the Florida Department of Health released a new rule giving parents the choice of whether or not to isolate asymptomatic students who have been exposed to COVID-19, quarantines fell sharply at public schools in Brevard.

Some hope this is a victory for students whose learning has been greatly interrupted by quarantines sometimes lasting several weeks, while others fear it will give the virus an opportunity to spread again unchecked in schools to teachers, other children and their families.

In recent days, quarantines reported by schools have roughly matched the number of positive cases. On Tuesday, 31 students and staff tested positive and 31 were quarantined between last Friday and Monday. On Friday, 32 students and staff were said to have tested positive and 25 were quarantined Tuesday through Thursday.

The district now has 5,048 cases of COVID-19 since August 2 (4,338 students and 710 employees) and 23,854 quarantines. At its peak, the district reported 784 cases and 4,021 quarantines from August 24-26.

District policy requires that students be quarantined for at least 10 days after symptoms appear after a positive test, and can return as long as symptoms improve and there is no fever.

Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo signed the new rule on September 22, his second day on the job. The rule contradicts advice from national health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends asymptomatic students exposed to COVID-19 to remain in isolation for at least five days, after which they can return to class with a COVID-test. 19 negative. These rules reflect that people who contract COVID-19 can infect others in the days before symptoms appear, and that some people who never develop symptoms can still spread the virus.

Following:Brevard parents, Orange counties ask judge to let parents step out of mask warrants

Belford said before Tuesday’s board meeting she spoke to several school principals who said most parents do not quarantine students who have been exposed to COVID-19.

“I think we cringe a bit, but we’re trying to be optimistic and hope that maybe there is something we don’t know and it will work,” Belford said. “It’s concerning knowing that we’ve had the spread in schools, and with the Delta variant, over the past two months we’ve seen a lot more students testing positive during quarantine.”

At a school board meeting on Tuesday, Belford cited the new quarantine rules as one of the reasons she does not want to shy away from the district’s mask mandate. The board of directors voted 3-2 against removing the mask mandate amid continued pressure from state agencies and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

On Thursday, the Florida Board of Education voted to accept Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s recommendations to withhold a month’s salary from members of the Brevard County School Board as well as seven other school boards who continued to defy state rules and force students to wear masks. .

Belford said until the effects of the new quarantine rules are clear, she will not support lifting mask requirements.

“I am seriously concerned that we may again have a real mess on our hands if we do not go to any quarantine and no mask requirements,” Belford said in an interview on Wednesday.

Following:The school board votes to keep the mask mandate; hearing withdrawn from the meeting

School board vice president Matt Susin, who has voted against the mask’s mandate every time the board reviewed it for the 2021-2022 school year, hopes the decrease in quarantines means more students will have access to quality education. He said in an interview on Friday that he knew the low rate of voluntary quarantines means asymptomatic students could spread the virus, but so far figures have not shown that to be the case.

“I know it’s a concern,” Susin said. “(I would be concerned) if the numbers increased during this time… Keeping healthy children in school is our number one goal. And I would say the numbers show that this fear is not justified. “

“We want all of our kids to be in school as much as possible because we know this is the worst academic achievement gap we’ve ever seen.”

Many parents have expressed concerns at school board meetings and in conversations with officials that students may not receive adequate education during required quarantines this fall. Last year, Brevard Public Schools used hybrid e-learning to allow students to connect to the classroom from their homes, but school officials said the public funds that supported the solution were failing. are not available this year.

In early fall, when quarantines were at their highest, some parents said their students received limited instruction during quarantine, and some teachers said it was difficult to keep students on track when many of their classes can be quarantined and difficult to reach on any given day.

Susin said it was too early to say definitively how this fall’s extended quarantines affected students. The first term for middle school students ended on Friday. Parents of at least one college received repeated emails last week imploring parents to work with their students to make up for missing homework.

“Due to the quarantine, we currently have a large number of students with multiple D’s and F’s,” read an email to parents at a Brevard college. “Please understand that students will NOT be exempt from missing homework as they should have been working on them from home during their quarantine period. “

Bailey Gallion is the educational journalist for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallion at [email protected] or 321-242-3786.

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