PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast students are getting ready to start their third year of school still dealing with COVID-19.
But this year, school districts in our area have minimal protocols in place as they try to really get back to normal.
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You won't see those online dashboards any more counting COVID-19 cases, and you don't need to worry about the Department of Health decision tree to determine how long your child needs to stay home if he or she tests positive.
In fact, you don't even need to tell the school if your child has the coronavirus.
"I look back at last year's conference and I had a mask on and 90% of the questions were about COVID-19," Superintendent Mike Burke of the School District of Palm Beach County said during a back-to-school news conference on Monday.
It's a new look for a new school year.
"It's nice to be in the endemic stage, knock on wood," Burke said.
"The best thing about this premiere is we are not going to have any conversations about COVID-19," said Superintendent Dr. David Moore of the School District of Indian River County. "My first time as superintendent where our solid focus is preparing for your students to return. Solid teaching and learning taking place."
From Palm Beach to Indian River, all corners of our five-county area are no longer tracking COVID-19 cases with a dashboard or requiring parents to notify the school if their child is positive.
"We will continue to test symptomatic students in our clinic if parents provide permission," said Keith Oswald, the chief of equity and wellness for the School District of Palm Beach County.
WATCH: Palm Beach County school leaders talk COVID-19 protocols
However, Palm Beach County public school students must stay home for five days — per Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — if they test positive for COVID-19 in a school health clinic, or if they report their positive case to their school.
"As much as you can try to control your kids, if they come up positive, there's no way to retrace where it came from," said Palm Beach County parent Wendy Ravelo.
Ravelo is a little worried about the new school year.
"With school, you don't have control over other parents and how they do their stuff and how precautionary they are," Ravelo said.
Ravelo added that her daughters will still wear masks at school.
"I think, considering the rise in COVID-19 locally, that it would be a good idea because they are going to be in close contact with one another," said pediatrician Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine with Palm Beach Pediatrics.
Fox-Levine said we know a lot more about COVID-19 now than we did a year ago, and added the new strain isn't as concerning as delta was, when we saw a massive surge in student cases at the start of last school year.
But there's another big difference from last year that Fox-Levine said could have more kids missing school.
"When we have such a busy summer sick season, which in my 20 years I have never seen, that’s concerning that we are already going into the school year with a number of viruses that are causing illness," Fox-Levine said.
"We wanna make sure everyone has information at their disposal during times of uncertainty," said Palm Beach County parent Scott Borden. "I also think we're at a different time when it comes to the progression of living with COVID-19."
Borden, a father of two, is looking forward to having the focus on his daughters' full school experience
"We want them to feel safe. We want them to have some sense of normalcy, and we can't do that if we are cramming doom and gloom and fear into their little brains all the time," Borden said. "So I think it's a good time to allow them to be kids, to go in there to learn."
Facial coverings will be optional for students and staff members in all of our local school districts.
St. Lucie Public Schools will continue to have a testing location at Manatee Elementary School for families and employees.
In the Martin County School District, officials said that if students are symptomatic and/or running a fever, they should stay home. Parents may choose to send their child back to school once they are fever-free and symptoms have resolved.
The Okeechobee County School District is not requiring any student quarantines. However, the district is still asking parents to keep sick children home.
Fox-Levine is encouraging parents to consider getting their child vaccinated against COVID-19 before next week if they have not already, and continue to practice good hygiene.
"Every year at the start of school it’s pretty much like clockwork that within two weeks of the kids going back to school, we switch from doing only well visits, back-to-school check-ups, to only sick. Because every year this happens when they go back to school. They share germs and then our offices explode with sick kids that we have to see," Fox-Levine said.