Collier County Public Schools prepare to reopen with coronavirus precautions in place
Collier County Public Schools will implement health precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus, such as requiring face masks, limiting the number of students in the cafeteria and reducing school bus capacity.
Collier County's School District is not releasing how many students and employees have had to quarantine due to close contact with more than 60 positive COVID-19 cases reported at school sites so far this year.
Forty-four Collier students and 19 employees have tested positive since the first day of school on Aug. 31, according to the district's dashboard as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Two weeks into the school year, after previously stating no plans to share COVID-19 case data, the district announced the tracking dashboard on Sept. 11 with 27 positive cases tracked.
More: Collier schools launches COVID-19 dashboard reversing stance on sharing data
In an email, district spokesman Chad Oliver stated the dashboard focuses on positive cases as a true indicator of the illness.
"To focus on quarantine numbers could lead to a series of inferences about COVID-19 positivity that may not be the case," Oliver wrote.
"Thus, in tracking and releasing information, we are mindful that positive cases and positivity rates are analytically different from students who may have to be quarantined that are not COVID positive," Oliver wrote.
The dashboard breaks down reported cases by school, date and whether it was a student or employee who tested positive.
The number of students and employees impacted due to close contact, which could result in a 14-day quarantine, is not shared on the case tracker web page.
A close contact is "anyone who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, with or without a mask," according to the district's COVID-19 information page.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention school guidelines encourage those who had close contact with a person who tests positive to "stay home and monitor their health."
If a student needs to quarantine because of close proximity to a positive case, they transition to virtual learning with their district laptop, according to the district.
The district and the Florida Department of Health in Collier work on a case-by-case basis to notify parents of students determined to be close contacts, Oliver wrote.
More: Ave Maria University implements coronavirus precautions to limit student transmission
School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Lucarelli said she's glad the district is sharing positive cases to alleviate some fears associated with the virus.
But she's more focused on how the number of students in quarantine could be burdensome on teachers and administrators to keep students learning while they are at home, she said.
"I'm more concerned about not having kids in school because of their proximity to a positive student than I'm worried about having the data out there about
numbers of quarantined kids," Lucarelli said.
Schools are maximizing space as best they can to provide distance and follow guidelines, Lucarelli said.
She said she is worried the number of students in quarantine is interfering with education in Collier for students who need to be in school.
Lucarelli said she wants the district to look at data for how many students sent home to quarantine showed symptoms of the virus or tested positive.
"If they haven't been (showing symptoms), I really think we need to do
something about sending all those kids home to quarantine," Lucarelli said.
About 29,000 Collier students returned to face-to-face instruction in August while about 17,000 students remained home with virtual instruction options.
Collier's school district will release official enrollment numbers Sept. 29, according to the district.
Some school districts, like Sarasota, Indian River and Collier counties, are sharing when positive cases are reported in schools.
But how positive coronavirus cases reported in schools and resulting quarantines are shared differs from district to district.
In Lee County, the district is not releasing quarantine data related to positive cases on its daily log, which lists the date a school reported at least one positive case.
The district is not distinguishing how many positive cases have been reported at those schools nor is it defining whether the person is a student or an employee.
More: Collier to send more federal coronavirus aid to community
The Department of Health will be the agency to contact individuals in a school community about any needs to quarantine, not the school itself.
But if the quarantine requires the closure of a classroom or school, affected students and staff would transition to virtual learning through the Lee Home Connect system.
If this happens, the district would confirm the closure, as it did with a classroom at Gateway Elementary School, but it would not issue a public alert.
More: Lee schools classroom quarantined for COVID-19
Collier's dashboard does not share positive cases reported at the district's headquarters.
The Naples Daily News asked about the number of positive cases reported at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, where district employees started working July 13 — before school started.
Oliver wrote in an email that the district dashboard was designed to track cases back to the first day of school and to "assist parents in deciding whether to choose in-person instruction for their child(ren) moving forward into the second quarter."
Fort Myers News-Press reporter Pamela McCabe contributed to this report.
Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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