There are currently 105 students infected with COVID-19 in the first three weeks of school. Students are being exposed, however. There are reports of up to 50 kids being sent home from a Keys elementary school on a single day after being exposed. 

Yet, the Monroe County School District can’t say how many students are being sent home to self-isolate. 

“As far as quarantine numbers are concerned, you have to get those from the health department,” said school district COVID-19 spokesperson Becky Herrin. “The health department is tracking those numbers. We just track how many students and staff are absent for whatever reason — whether medically related or for other reasons.”

However, Superintendent Teri Axford told the school board on Aug. 24 that it knows of 290 students who are quarantining, although that may not include students who are self-quarantining, i.e., have not notified the school or the health department of their status. 

The health department also can’t say how many students are absent from school due to exposure to a positive COVID-19 case. 

“Upon speaking with our team, the number of students who are being quarantined/ self-isolated due to COVID is not being tracked specifically,” said a health department spokesperson. “However, what is being tracked is the number of students who are absent due to some medical issue, which includes COVID as well as other ailments in the number.”

Staying home when sick is the health department’s primary message.

According to the school district, detailed seating charts are required for every classroom and for buses to assist with contact tracing. Exposed students and staff who are not vaccinated will be required to quarantine.

Quarantine will not be required for vaccinated staff and students who are exposed unless they experience symptoms or have a positive test.

The Monroe County School District is not currently offering virtual learning in the 2021-2022 school year (see sidebar), although the state does run a permanent, online schooling option. To keep students from falling behind, the district is following state guidelines.

“As per state requirements, students who are out for medical reasons receive take-home work so they don’t fall behind,” Herrin said. 

If a student is absent to get a COVID-19 vaccination, it is an excused absence with a doctor’s note. 

The first two Marathon High School football games have been canceled, although a home volleyball game occured on Aug. 25. According to the district, sports activities are going forward in the same manner that they did at the end of the school year last year. The first two Coral Shores High School football games, too, were cancelled due to COVID outbreaks. 

“They have not been curtailed,” Herrin said. “When distancing and masking is possible during sports, then it is done. But in many sports masking and distancing is not possible, in which case students and or parents acknowledge the risk before participation.”

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.