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DeSantis stands firm on in-person school despite rise in COVID cases

Manatee School Board
Manatee School Board(WWSB)
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 3:42 PM EST
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BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - Increased COVID-19 cases across the U.S. are pushing some school districts to move to virtual learning. Gov. Ron DeSantis made it clear in-person schooling in the state of Florida is here to stay despite the surge in cases of the omicron variant.

“Kids need to be in school. They do not need to be doing any crazy mitigation. Just let them be kids. I think it’s clear a lot of these mitigations...it hasn’t worked period,” DeSantis said Monday. “They need to be in school. Parents need to be assured that they’re going to send their kids to school.”

DeSantis said the state has changed its policy on how children quarantine.

“If you’re healthy, you need to be in school. And that is our policy and we think that flows in the rights of parents and we’re not going to deviate on that,” said DeSantis.

Meanwhile, school districts are getting ready to have students back in classrooms following the holiday break. In Manatee County, school district will be sending out a notice to parents about COVID-19 testing and districts protocols going into the new school semester that starts Jan. 6.

A similar message was sent to teachers and school district employees over the weekend:

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“School District Employees,

“As we prepare to return to work on Tuesday, January 4th, we do so during another surge in COVID-19 cases. During this surge, the School District will work closely with the Florida Department of Health Manatee to do everything we can to keep positive cases out of our schools and support sites.

“Most importantly, that means anyone who is sick, has COVID-19 symptoms or who is waiting on results of a COVID-19 test must stay home until they are symptom free and cleared to return to work or school.

“In addition, starting Tuesday, free COVID-19 PCR rapid tests will be available at Marble Park in Bradenton.

“The Marble Park site is located at 3675 53rd Ave. East, and is only open for School District employees, students and Manatee County Government Employees. School or district ID must be shown to be tested. The site is open daily Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“MCR Health School-Based Health Clinics at Manatee Elementary and Southeast High School also offer COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and booster shots by appointment daily to district employees, Monday through Friday.

“We will send an email to all employees on Tuesday with any additional mitigation measures or protocols.

“Working together, we can help weather this surge just as we did with the one at the very beginning of the school year.

“Thank you for your dedication and help in these efforts.”

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The test site was previously opened in September by the Florida Department of Health Manatee for students, district employees and Manatee County Government employees. It closed in November because of the decrease in cases in the county. On Tuesday it reopened at Marble Park.

School district representatives in Manatee County confirm with ABC7 potential additional protocols will be discussed on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re expecting a rise in (omicron) cases,” said School District spokesman Michael Barber. He says they’ve been dealing with similar situations for two years and have an operations center that works with the Department of Health for contact tracing.

Barber says the best thing parents can do is to not send their children to school if they have symptoms or are awaiting results.

Masks remains optional throughout the school district.

The Manatee County Teacher union president Pat Barber tells ABC7 there are people who are very concerned about the variant and people who are not. She says she’s hearing concerns from teachers who are worried about what protocols will be put in place when students go back to class.

“Employees have to protect themselves,” Barber said. “If they’re concerned they need to be vaccinated fully. You have to do what you can to keep yourself and your students as safe as possible.”

Barber says school districts across the state are limited on what they can do to provide a safe environment for students and employees.

Sarasota County schools don’t start up again until next week but they have sent this response to ABC7, “At this point we will update and align our Safety Protocols with the new CDC and FDOH guidelines. To our knowledge, we will be following the Governor’s parents’ rights document with regard to masks and other quarantine procedures.”

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