School board chair: Too many COVID-19 cases among teachers could shut down schools

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs said there are concerns that too many COVID-19 cases among school staff could cause schools to have to close.

“We are concerned with the possibility of having to close down our schools if we lose too many of our faculty in particular,” Jacobs said Tuesday.

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The district said 700 staff members were out on Tuesday.

Jacobs said they’re working to minimize case numbers and transmission by requiring masks on campus for all adults.

READ: OCPS reinstates mask requirement for all adults

Florida law keeps schools from mandating masks for students, so Jacobs said she sees this move as the best for all.

“For our parents, it’s very helpful for their children to go to school, we know for our children, it’s extremely helpful for their mental health for them to be back in school,” she said. “So we’re doing everything we can to create a climate that will be safe enough to keep them in our schools.”

READ: Seminole County schools providing teachers, staff with COVID-19 testing kits ahead of new semester

This week, Orange County parents were told if they still want to keep their children out of school that it will be marked an excused absence. Jacobs said the district is strongly encouraging those who keep their children home to home school them so they don’t fall behind.

And even though less than 10% of current COVID-19 cases at AdventHealth’s area Centra Cares are children, health experts still encourage parents who choose to send their students to school, to wear a mask.

READ: FDA approves Pfizer COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 12, CDC approval needed

“During class when they’re indoors especially because that can help reduce transmission,” said Dr. Tim Hendrix with AdventHealth Centra Care. “If they’re the appropriate age, get them vaccinated. Now is the time.”

Jacobs said she’s encouraged by data that shows while highly contagious, omicron’s grip will be short lived.

READ: COVID-19 scams: How to prevent buying fake COVID tests

Given the legal limitations against universal mask mandates and remote learning, the chair said she’s confident the district is poised to handle COVID-19′s latest storm.

“We have less options, but let’s use the options we have and use them responsibly,” Jacobs said.

READ: As students return from holiday break Lake County to offer vaccines and boosters at select schools

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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.