MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Just one week into the new school year, more than 300 students and teachers combined have been quarantined in Martin County because of possible cases of COVID-19 in classrooms.
Superintendent Laurie Gaylord and other officials presented new information to school board members on Tuesday, suggesting that some parents are irresponsibly sending their children to class when they shouldn't.
"I want to reinforce the fact that people need to take the personal responsibility in this," Gaylord said. "If your children are sick, please do not send them to school."
Members of the Martin County School District's Pandemic Response Team said parents are awaiting a COVID-19 test result and improperly sending their children to school anyway, then calling the school when their test is positive.
"If anyone in your household is COVID-19 positive, do not sent your children to school," said Carol Ann Vitani, the health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Martin County. "The whole household is on quarantine."
According to the latest numbers from the school district, a total of 292 students and 14 teachers from at least five Martin County schools have been quarantined since the school year started last Tuesday after children and staff members showed symptoms of COVID-19, school officials said.
231 high school students and 61 elementary school students are under quarantine. No middle school students are under quarantine.
The Martin County School District announced around 7 p.m. Tuesday that 29 additional students at South Fork High School must transition from in-classroom to remote learning immediately. In addition, four of the nine teachers at South Fork High School who were previously quarantined don't need to quarantine anymore.
"There will be cases that present themselves," Gaylord told board members, adding that high schools present the biggest challenges because students are moving between classes more frequently than elementary and middle school students.
School district officials urged parents to keep your children home if they're sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19, if someone in your household is awaiting a COVID-19 test result, or if someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19.
At Tuesday's meeting, board member Christia Li Roberts clarified that under the school district's COVID-19 guidelines, a student or staff member showing symptoms of the coronavirus doesn't necessarily mean their entire classroom will be quarantined.
"It isn't a symptom that gets you a ticket home," Roberts said. "It has to have the word 'positive' in it, whether it's either a positive case or a presumed positive, meaning that you had contact with a person with a positive case and you're showing symptoms. But just symptoms by itself does not get your class, everybody walking out the door and going home."
During an exclusive interview with WPTV last Friday, Gaylord said officials were fully expecting students to be quarantined throughout the school year.
"We know that this is gonna happen," Gaylord said. "There are gonna be children that do exhibit symptoms."
Gaylord added that about 38% of students in Martin County are starting the school year with virtual learning at home, while the rest are taking part in traditional in-classroom instruction.