Leon County Public School officials weigh in on recent COVID-19 cases

The Safe Start plan consists of several COVID-19 Positivity Protocols. Photo courtesy LCS Instagram

Over the Labor Day weekend, there has been an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the state of Florida. The district reported six cases were confirmed within the Leon County Schools (LCS) system.

According to an article released by the Tallahassee Democrat on Sept. 4, two LCS students contracted the virus. The students were from Chiles and Rickards High School. The principals from both schools sent out emails to parents of the students that were potentially exposed.

A live stream meeting regarding the issue took place Tuesday evening on LCS Facebook and YouTube sites.

Since the release of the ‘Safe Start’ Leon Plan, social distancing, masks, and block scheduling have been effective in some schools across the county. However, school board officials are now focusing on an immediate plan of action to accommodate the schools that have experienced positive cases.

To avoid such cases in the future, school officials are encouraging parents, students, and communities to follow the proper protocol given by Leon County health officials. Officials are also stressing the importance of staying home when an individual has tested positive or was potentially exposed.

Chiles High School faculty stated they would rather not comment on this issue as of right now.  A representative from the principal’s office, who prefers to be anonymous, says,  “The staff has  had back to back meetings lined up today to address this urgent matter.”

Additionally, an administrator at Rickards High School, who also wishes to be unnamed, said that despite the reported case, the school will remain open.

“Until we are instructed by the Florida Health Department about further precautions, Rickards will continue to follow the chain of command set in place for when someone tests positive,” said the Rickards administrator.

According to the LCS live stream, the confirmed case at Rickards High School was caused by carpooling.

Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox, who oversees health in the district’s schools, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. Cox expressed that the confirmed cases will follow three simple steps.

The Safe Start Reopening Plan was approved by the Leon County School Board on July 28, 2020. Photo Courtesy LCS Instagram

First, principals will send out emails that will notify the school’s community. Second, the Leon County office of the Florida Department of Health will contact every parent in the class with more information concerning the students that were potentially exposed. Finally, the individuals will receive a letter and a phone call from the Department of Health.

LCS district’s Coordinator of Communications & Media Relations, Chris Petley, commented that the new “LCS COVID-19” dashboard that is now available. Parents can now receive daily updates about the confirmed cases at their child’s school.

“We will be updating it daily. This is not a cumulative total. It will be between 4 p.m. – 5 p.m., because that is when school is out,” said Petley. “That is adequate time to notify parents about positive cases.”

Students, faculty, and staff will continue to follow the precautions administered by LCS officials in the district; which will be accompanied by emails and weekly newsletters.

An employee from Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, who chose to be unnamed, believes that students and faculty should continue to adhere to the guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone.

The Leon County Health Department is assisting with contact tracing and notifying individuals who will need to be quarantined. Further updates will be released in upcoming school board meetings, the new COVID-19 dashboard, and posts via social media. Most importantly, the homes and communities of the students will be contacted first.

LCS will resume and continue to implement the strategy set in motion.