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COVID-19 in Florida classrooms results in school closures, concern

Dozens of classrooms closed; 4 districts shut down schools
Posted at 5:53 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 09:55:47-04

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Just a month into the second year of "pandemic school" and Florida school districts are struggling to keep up.

In Indian River County, positive cases and quarantine forced the district to close two of its schools this week.


"It's just not sustainable when you don't have the people to run the school," said Scott Simpson, the principal at Treasure Coast Elementary.

Scott Simpson
Principal Scott Simpson explains how the surge in COVID-19 cases has impacted education at his school.

Indian River County is one of four Florida school districts that have already taken the drastic measure to close a school amid a widely spreading delta variant.

Two small schools districts in North Florida had to shut down all of their schools this week due to the rampant spread of the virus on its campuses.

"I truly feel it is necessary in order to build a stop-gap measure that will prevent the virus from spreading more widely," Gulf County School Superintendent Jim Norton posted on the district's Facebook page.

From school closures to dozens more classroom quarantines. We've discovered at least 50 classrooms across 11 school districts have been closed to students since the start of the new school year.

In Pasco County, the virus has resulted in a half dozen full classroom quarantines impacting elementary, middle and high schools, according to district spokesperson Steve Hegarty.

To date, more than 13,000 students in the district have been out due to a positive case or quarantine since the start of the year.

"All these numbers are very concerning, absolutely," Hegarty said.

The closures are not just an inconvenience but a real challenge for districts still trying to figure out how to effectively educate students in quarantine.

Since the state dropped the option for e-learning, districts are relying on virtual programs including Zoom and Google classrooms but teachers aren't a guarantee.

"You're right, we can't necessarily force teachers to do one thing or another and it depends on if the teacher is feeling up to it,” explained Hegarty. "If the teacher is positive they may not be able to teach," he said.

Pasco County School Spokesman Steve Hegarty
Pasco County School Spokesman Steve Hegarty discusses the rise in COVID-19 cases among children.

In Lee County, nearly three dozen classrooms have shut their doors to students temporarily this year.

During a board meeting earlier this week, board member Chris Patricca shared her own son’s experience learning in quarantine.

"There was zero work in Google classroom," Patricca said. "That was an epic failure for those two days for that one kid. He learned nothing," she told the district.

In much larger Hillsborough County, the district is using a combination of virtual programs and will soon be offering a new 24/7 tutoring program for all students in grades 6-12 regardless of whether they are in quarantine.

The district is hiring 10 teachers who will also offer tutoring to students in grades K-5.

"We will evaluate the demand and go from there," a district spokesperson told us.

"Right now it's really all hands on deck," Hegarty said.

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