Florida schools prepare to resume classes as omicron cases continue to rise

'I think it is going to get worse before it gets better,' teacher says
Posted at 3:14 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 18:14:04-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — School resumes next week following the holiday break for children across Florida.

Amid the surge in COVD-19 cases, students, staff, teachers and principals are all looking into what it may look like as children head back to the classroom.

"I think it is going to get worse before it gets better," said Eric Jourgensen, a teacher at Palm Beach Central High School. "It is definitely giving me more pause than I have had in a while."


Eric Jourgensen, Palm Beach Central High School teacher
Teacher Eric Jourgensen says he is going to switch to wearing an N95 mask once classes resume.

He isn't aware of any policy changes at schools but wonders if some measures that were in place at the start of the school year will be reimplemented.

Jourgensen said he is already taking steps to protect himself and his class, switching his mask to a KN95 and more.

"There is definitely a wait and see. I am being proactive and working on my lessons to be able to be worked on in class and virtual, anticipating there may be a surge of more students that are at home," Jourgensen said.

WPTV reached out to area school districts on any possible policy changes but had not received any statements as of Wednesday afternoon.

When it comes to universal masking in schools without an opt out, it appears the school districts cannot legally implement that again.

Lisa Collum, the owner and principal at Coastal Middle and High School in Lake Park
Lisa Collum of Coastal Middle and High School believes her school is ready to handle the surge in cases better than when the pandemic began.

State lawmakers held a special session in November, passing a law that hobbles COVID-19 mandates.

"Right before break, we started having conversations about what that it would look like coming back, only because we starting seeing a spike in numbers," said Lisa Collum, the owner and principal at Coastal Middle and High School in Lake Park.

She feels her school is better adapted to handle the situation than when the pandemic began last year.

"I think the most important thing is if we do have to close a classroom or even school, we are so much prepared now. I feel like everyone has invested in the digital programs.

She wants to keep students on track, safely.

"It's just going back to the simple, you are not feeling well, stay home," Collum said. "We just want to prevent the spread, especially right now as we come back after Christmas vacation."

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush speaks about surge in COVID cases, Dec. 29, 2021
Dr. Larry Bush advises that parents get their school-aged children vaccinated against COVID-19.

"I suspect we have not seen the peak of this exponential rise, it is going to continue," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush.

He said school resuming after the holiday break will likely increase the spread.

"I believe there will be [an increase in cases] because it's highly transmissible, even in the children who have been vaccinated, and as you can see the reports are coming out that the hospitalizations for children are rising," Bush said.

He said protection starts with vaccination.

Experts advise everyone who is eligible, including children ages 5 and up, should get the shot. And those who can get a booster, should.

Bush said it's also a way to protect younger siblings who can't get vaccinated.

"Outside of school, we need to step that up, because a lot of transmission goes on in the household," Bush said.

He also said you should consider having your child wear a mask during this surge.

"I think at least for the very near future, it makes sense. It is difficult to do, I understand that, but it makes sense. More here is better than less, and everything has its role in preventing this from getting totally out of hand," Bush said.

At this point, Jourgensen said his goal is to keep students moving forward while calming their fears.

"It is just dealing with the best bad option that we have. Sometimes you don't have a good option available, and you have to pick the best bad option. You have to prepare for the worst, hope for the best," Jourgensen said.