ORLANDO, Fla. — The high hopes that were felt as buses rolled out of lots for the new school year have come crashing down to earth.
Just a week and a half into the semester, thousands of students have tested positive in Central Florida School districts, leading to thousands of others being sent home to quarantine.
Of the districts that publish full sets of data, Brevard County has been the most impacted. According to its dashboard, 4% of students were quarantining as of the end of the week. Brevard doesn’t have a mask mandate.
In some schools, such as Astronaut High School, that number is as high as 20% of its student body.
“I think it is a good example of how a school district reflects the community as a whole,” district spokesman Russell Bruhn said.
Bruhn said no discussions were underway about closing classrooms or buildings. Because e-learning wasn’t allowed this year, students have to rely on take-home packets or platforms like Google Docs to keep up.
He added that administrative officials were helping to fill in where teacher shortages were being reported. He requested that community members wear masks and get vaccinated, if possible, to help the district contain the surge.
“Taking care of yourself and taking care of your neighbor will allow us to have a school year that’s successful,” he said.
In other areas of Florida, districts were fighting back harder. Hours after being reprimanded by the Florida Board of Education, Alachua County Schools opted to extend its mask mandate, which doesn’t have an opt-out for parents except in cases of medical exemption. Hillsborough and Miami-Dade schools, two of the largest districts in the state, also voted to implement strict mandates.
President Biden has also instructed federal officials to aid districts that risk funding cuts due to the state’s no-mask-mandate policy in schools.
“They have a constitutional responsibility to make sure that all of the kids in their care are safe, and are getting the education they deserve,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said.
Spar encouraged districts to fight back against the state, though he said he really wanted Gov. DeSantis to step up and hand back some local control to schools and governments.
“We’re seeing a disruption in the learning process, which is very concerning,” he said. “For us as educators, we want every child in school, we want them learning, and we want that learning to be to be continuous.”
Cox Media Group