School districts in Northeast Florida are taking steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Florida had two confirmed cases and one presumptive positive case of the disease in Hillsborough and Manatee Counties. Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a public health emergency.
.@CDCgov confirms Florida’s two cases of #COVID19. Visit @HealthyFla's dedicated information page for the latest updates and guidance: https://t.co/e1S8bGG26U. Know the Facts. #PublicHealth #WHO #Coronavirus
— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) March 2, 2020
While no confirmed cases have been reported in Northeast Florida, Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) Superintendent Diana Greene has directed schools in her district to take several precautionary steps.
The school district will ask all parents and guardians to inform their child’s school if anyone in their household has traveled to areas that the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) has deemed to be high-risk for widespread sustained transmission of the coronavirus, which as of Tuesday afternoon includes the countries of China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. If a school receives such a notification, it will work with the district and community health officials to figure out the best way for those children to be reintroduced to the school. The district plans to make this request through a letter that will be distributed later this week.
Any new families coming to Duval County from high-risk areas will be asked to call the school they plan to have their child attend before registering. A registration in-take center will be set up at the district’s Parent Resource Center to help these families. Those families are also being asked to not visit schools.
Between Wednesday, March 4, and the end of Spring Break on March 15, DCPS will sanitize and disinfect all schools using Center for Biocide Chemistries approved viral disinfectants. If a school or district facility is exposed to the coronavirus in the future, the district says it will deploy this same sanitizing procedure immediately. Hand sanitizer is also being distributed in bulk to all schools, all of which are being advised to stock up on soap and paper towels for students and faculty to use.
Normal school attendance policies are still in effect for Duval County, but the district says it’s prepared to make school-by-school decisions if state and local health officials deem it necessary. However, if a healthcare provider states in writing that a student should not attend school due to the coronavirus, that student will be fully accommodated with home health education plans. Families of those students should coordinate with their school principals to figure out the best education plan on a case-by-case basis.
All school or DCPS-sponsored travel to high-risk areas will be canceled and refunds will be provided, if possible. Non-refundable out-of-state trips may be allowed if the trip isn’t to an area on the CDC’s list of concern, though each trip will be reviewed by the district on a case-by-case basis. If an employee or student isn’t comfortable traveling they will be excused with no academic consequences. The district says it will try to ensure that there will be no financial penalties for non-attendance. Previously planned out-of-state trips that are refundable will be reviewed by the district.
Until further notice, all new out-of-country travel requests will be rejected DCPS. New out-of-state travel requests won’t be approved, except for emergency situations or “highly-mission critical employee travel.” In-state travel has to be approved by a regional superintendent or cabinet-level supervisor. At the moment there are no restrictions for in-county field trips.
DCPS students and employees who are sick won’t be allowed to travel. If someone gets sick during a trip they may not be allowed to return via public transportation if they’re deemed a risk to others. If a student isn’t allowed to return an adult will be required to remain with the student. If a student or employee is exposed to someone with COVID-19 they will be expected to self-isolate, as recommended by the Florida Department of Health.
The St. Johns County School District is working with the Department of Health and is taking the following steps:
- Sharing information through day-to-day reporting by school nurses of all students identified with flu-like symptoms.
- Encouraging parents to keep sick children home.
- Sending students home who become sick at school or arrive at school sick.
- Encouraging frequent hand washing.
- Encouraging respiratory etiquette (cover coughs and sneezes).
- Increasing frequency of cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
- Monitoring for changes in usual absenteeism patterns.
Information on what other school districts in the region are doing can be found below: