OCPS parents who keep students home over COVID-19 concerns could face truancy issues

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County Public Schools says it’s no longer considering absences excused if parents keep their children home over COVID-19 concerns.

State law says students under the age of 16 who are out of school more than five days in a calendar month or 10 days unexcused in a 90-day period could be reported as truant, which means students who do not return to their school could face a visit from a truancy officer.

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The change in policy does not impact students who are out sick with COVID-19.

The district said students who are sick should stay home and those absences will be excused. The change only applies for students who were kept home over the last month since winter break over concerns about the omicron variant.

READ: Orange County Public Schools will no longer provide excused absences due to increased COVID-19 cases

Chief Communications Officer Scott Howat said the district has started to see a significant decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in Orange County as well as OCPS.

“The only way that they’ll be able to keep their children out is if they register them for home-school education, which they can do and keep their children home and instruct them at home,” Howar said.

READ: Orange County schools extends mask requirement for all adults

Of the more than 200,000 students who attend public school in Orange County, the change only affects about 8,000 students.

Howart said parents who have kept their children home due to omicron shouldn’t have to worry about truancy concerns from the past month as long as their children have been keeping up with their school work.

“If they haven’t been doing their work and they’ve just stayed home, then they could be potentially brought to a truancy court or truancy situation,” Howart said.

Howart said if you would like to enroll your child in home schooling, you can contact the OCPS school choice office.

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Jeff Levkulich

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.