Florida school district says teachers exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic can keep working

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A Florida public school district will allow teachers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to return to school and teach if they are asymptomatic, according to a policy change Tuesday. 

Polk County Public Schools is reporting 12 cases of COVID-19 connected to Lakeland High School and Harrison School for the Arts, which share a campus, according to the district’s online dashboard. 

The shocking policy change comes after reports that dozens of teachers and nearly 300 students are under quarantine at the schools, but the district hasn’t released an official number on how many people are quarantined. 

‘[Teachers] will have the option of continuing to work or can self-quarantine if they have concerns,’ Kenny Kennedy with Polk County Public Schools media relations said in a statement to News Channel 8

Florida's Polk County Public Schools district will allow teachers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to return to school and teach if they're asymptomatic. The decision comes as 12 cases of COVID-19 have been reported connected to Lakeland High School and Harrison School for the Arts, which share a campus

Florida’s Polk County Public Schools district will allow teachers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to return to school and teach if they’re asymptomatic. The decision comes as 12 cases of COVID-19 have been reported connected to Lakeland High School and Harrison School for the Arts, which share a campus

‘If they continue working, these teachers must also monitor their temperature and symptoms, practice social distancing and have their work areas cleaned more frequently,’ he added.

Teachers who live with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus are required to self-quarantine.

Six new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday involved people under quarantine, the district said in an email to parents. 

Outgoing school board member Billy Townsend said he believes the policy was changed because too many teachers were being placed under quarantine.

‘Rather than just be honest about that and say that directly, they put out this nonsense about protecting people’s safety. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with capacity,’ he said. 

Townsend said to The Ledger he heard that 25 teachers and approximately 300 students are quarantined at Lakeland High School and Harrison School for the Arts.

School board member Billy Townsend says he heard that 25 teachers and approximately 300 students are quarantined from Lakeland High School and Harrison School for the Arts, but officials haven't released a number of how many people are quarantined

School board member Billy Townsend says he heard that 25 teachers and approximately 300 students are quarantined from Lakeland High School and Harrison School for the Arts, but officials haven’t released a number of how many people are quarantined

'It’s really messed up. You’re taking a risk with other people’s lives. It’s wrong,' Lakeland high school student Perla Cruz said

‘It’s really messed up. You’re taking a risk with other people’s lives. It’s wrong,’ Lakeland high school student Perla Cruz said

The district said Tuesday that the schools have 'relocated some students to the gymnasium so they could spread out and (be) supervised while continuing to do their work' as teachers are out being quarantined

The district said Tuesday that the schools have ‘relocated some students to the gymnasium so they could spread out and (be) supervised while continuing to do their work’ as teachers are out being quarantined

The move has enraged parents and students alike who say they’re putting people at risk. 

‘It’s really messed up. You’re taking a risk with other people’s lives. It’s wrong,’ Lakeland high school student Perla Cruz said. 

‘They open the school and I get it you take measurements for students to not get sick, but they still get sick,’ she added.

On Tuesday district and school officials said in an email to parents that the Florida Department of Health in Polk County has directed certain individuals to self-quarantine, forcing a number of teachers to temporarily leave campus.

The district also said Tuesday that the schools have ‘relocated some students to the gymnasium so they could spread out and (be) supervised while continuing to do their work.’

‘This was done as a temporary measure while we have teachers out on quarantine. Some teachers have been able to continue working remotely while on quarantine.’

Polk Education Association President Stephanie Yocum said she’s trying to make quarantine figures public.  She said: 'The public has a right to know and we have a right to know so that we can help best keep our members safe'

Polk Education Association President Stephanie Yocum said she’s trying to make quarantine figures public.  She said: ‘The public has a right to know and we have a right to know so that we can help best keep our members safe’

Polk Education Association President Stephanie Yocum said she’s trying to make quarantine figures public.

She said: ‘The public has a right to know and we have a right to know so that we can help best keep our members safe. We’ve put in several requests. They’ve gotten back with us saying we’re working on it but then they direct us to their website.’

Yocum believes the new quarantine policy puts teachers and students at risk.

‘You’re telling somebody that could have been exposed, you just keep exposing yourself to other people and possibly spreading the infection and we’ll wait until you’re symptomatic,’ she said.

Today there are more than 6million cases of the virus and more than 185,000 deaths from it across the US.

In Florida there have been 637,013 total cases and 11,650 deaths from the virus. 

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