Palm Beach County schools want to improve contact tracing for COVID-19 cases

Officials asking parents to lock in their child's learning model for rest of semester
Posted at 11:17 AM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 18:20:22-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In just days, parents in Palm Beach County will be asked to lock in their choice for their child's educational model -- either in-classroom or distance learning -- for the reminder of the semester.

School leaders say that doing so will help them with the critical task of contact tracing should there be a confirmed case of COVID-19 on a school campus.

"Currently we are seeing numerous students bounce back and forth daily between in-person and distance learning," Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy told school board members on Wednesday night. "This fluidity is taxing our teachers and many of our departments throughout the district. It also makes contact tracing significantly more difficult in the case of an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 on one of our campuses."


Dr. Donald Fennoy talks about contact tracing

Currently, the School District of Palm Beach County is using assigned seats and seating charts in classrooms and on school buses to keep track of students.

The district is also doing "warm body counts" each day to determine who is at school and who is home. That gives health officials a good starting point should contact tracing be needed.

Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director for Palm Beach County, explained the strategy further at a county commission meeting last month.

"There is an assigned desk chart for each classroom and for the bus so that when we do contact tracing, we know exactly where the kids are. That is very, very important," Dr. Alonso said.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Back To School | Coronavirus

Starting on Monday, Oct. 5, the window will open for parents and guardians to make their final choice on the instructional model they want their children to take part in -- either in-classroom or distance learning -- for the rest of the semester.

If you want to change your child's current learning model, update the "Make Your Choice" tile in the student portal.

If you don't want to make any changes and are satisfied with the current model your child is in, you don't have to do anything.

Parents have until Oct. 14 to make changes, and those changes will take effect on Nov. 4 and run through the end of the first semester, which is Jan. 29.

School district leaders said they want parents to lock in their final choice because currently, some students are going back and forth between in-person and distance learning daily, and it's making contact tracing more challenging as it's more difficult to keep track of children.

According to the latest figures from School District of Palm Beach County on Thursday, 17 employees and eight students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Sept. 16.