New student quarantine policy: How Central Florida school districts are reacting

Florida’s new surgeon general is off to a fast start, fulfilling a key wish of Gov. Ron DeSantis to have the most normal school year possible.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo signed a new rule Wednesday that gave parents the choice to quarantine their kids after COVID-19 exposure or send them to class, as long as they remained asymptomatic.

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While Ladapo, DeSantis and other officials say the benefits of schooling outweigh the risk to kids of contracting COVID-19, not everyone is on board. Up to 50% of kids’ cases are asymptomatic, CDC reports show, though it’s not clear how often asymptomatic children spread the virus.

READ: Coronavirus: FDA authorizes Pfizer booster shots for older, at-risk Americans

Additionally, school districts have zero tools to prevent buildings from shutting down should the virus spread through classes, short of bucking the state in some way or forcing their kids to stay at least six feet apart.

However, ahead of the school year child education experts mostly agreed that children most benefited by attending in-person classes, and efforts should be made to keep kids in their building as much as possible. The delta variant, along with loose masking policies, forced many kids to quarantine throughout the fall due to the existing state guidelines.

READ: New Florida surgeon general gives parents choice whether to quarantine students exposed to COVID-19

Here’s how each Central Florida school district is reacting:

Orange

The district is still reviewing the policy.

“Our goal is to keep our students and staff safe and keep our schools open,” a spokesperson said, via the district’s Facebook page.

OCPS families, the district is currently reviewing the Florida Department of Health’s new rule that was issued today by...

Posted by Orange County Public Schools on Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Orange County teacher union leader Wendy Doromal blasted the change Wednesday.

“I think it’s really sad that we have him as our Surgeon General,” she said.

READ: How Central Florida is playing a part in Pfizer’s race to get children under 12 vaccinated

Osceola

The district will follow the new policy.

Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace attended and spoke during the governor’s press conference.

“Certainly safety is our priority, but the learning is so so, so critical for our students and our families here in Osceola County,” she said.

Seminole

The district will follow the new policy.

“SCPS has adjusted their guidelines in accordance to these rules to be effective immediately,” a press release said.

New guidelines can be viewed here (please note: this link automatically downloads a document).

READ: ‘Florida Heartbeat Act’: State rep. files Texas-style abortion bill

Brevard

The district will follow the new policy.

“We have seen the emergency rule and the district will update how we handle quarantines to be aligned with the rule,” a district spokesman said.

Volusia

The district will follow the new policy.

“At this time, VCS’ mandatory face-covering policy, which allows parents and guardians to opt their children out, will remain in place,” a statement said.

Lake

The district has not yet addressed the change.

READ: New R.1 COVID-19 variant detected in U.S. outbreak

Marion

The district will follow the new policy.

“Students who do quarantine are not penalized for being absent as long as they make up their classroom work,” a message to parents said. “We encourage you to regularly monitor your child for any symptoms.”

Sumter

The district has not addressed the change.

Flagler

The district will follow the new policy.

“We as a District have recognized the important role of our state Surgeon General and our state Department of Health as our communities continue to slow the spread of COVID,” a statement said.

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