MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — In just the first week of an unprecedented school year, Martin County has already seen two classrooms and 35 students quarantined after children showed symptoms of the coronavirus.
Despite that, Superintendent Laurie Gaylord said they were expecting this to happen.
"We know that this is gonna happen," Gaylord said in an interview with WPTV on Friday. "There are gonna be children that do exhibit symptoms."
On Friday, Gaylord said 11 students in a classroom at Hobe Sound Elementary School were forced to quarantine at home for the next 14 days after a child showed symptoms of COVID-19.
Just two days prior, the same thing happened at Seawind Elementary School near Hobe Sound, where 24 students in a classroom were ordered to stay at home for two weeks.
"I can't stress enough to families that if your child is exhibiting any type of symptom, they should keep them home," Gaylord said. "If you have family members in the home that are sick, keep your children home as well."
WATCH FULL INTERVIEW:
Gaylord said the Martin County School District has been preparing for incidents like this. The district has a Pandemic Response Team that works local health officials to ensure the safety of students in the affected classrooms.
"I expected it. I expected it with the transmission in the community," Gaylord said. "I think as students are back to school, we'll see this. I think we are going to see this."
The school year in Martin County started on Tuesday with about 38% of students opting for virtual learning, according to Gaylord, and the rest taking traditional in-classroom instruction.
Gaylord said the preparation and planning for the 2020-21 academic year has worked incredibly well, including the social distancing of desks, spaced out seating in cafeterias, signage in hallways, and getting personal protective equipment to each school.
"It's exciting to be back in school, and we're the first ones in the area so we have a lot of attention right now," Gaylord said. "At this point in time, I don't know something that we can truly say has not worked. I think that there's been challenges."
One of those challenges, Gaylord admits, is technology.
"Not every child at this point in time has a laptop computer," Gaylord said.
The superintendent added that the district is working overtime to make sure every child has access to the proper digital devices and is prepared for both in-classroom and distance learning.
"There's no playbook on this," Gaylord said. "We have to be super flexible and patient about this."