More than 45 Broward County public schools staff members and one student in the district have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Monday, according to the latest information released from the school district.
The numbers came out four days after Broward public schools opened their doors to students for in-person learning for the first time since schools closed in March.
“Broward County Public Schools understands parents’ concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 as the phased reopening of schools for face-to-face eLearning continues,” a statement released by the district Tuesday says. “The District is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and working closely with the Florida Department of Health-Broward, to make sure we are taking all the necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of students and staff.”
Broward is opening its schools in phases. On Friday, students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, as well as those in other grades with special needs, were allowed to return. Students in the remaining grades opting to return did so starting Tuesday.
Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said Friday he expects between 20 and 25% of the district’s more than 260,000 students to come back to the classroom for face-to-face instruction by the end of this week. The rest of the children will continue to attend class online from home, just as they have since last spring.
Runcie also said the district planned for the likelihood that there would be COVID cases once the schools were occupied again. In the event of positive tests, the student cannot return to campus until he or she has at least one negative test result after a 10- to 14-day period, he said.
The student who tested positive this week attends Chapel Trail Elementary School in Pembroke Pines, according to the district’s online coronavirus dashboard. An employee at the school has also tested positive.
The other COVID-19 positive staffers are dispersed among 37 schools from Annabel C. Perry K-8 in Miramar to Wilton Manors Elementary School, according to the dashboard. The school with the highest number of infected employees is North Lauderdale PK-8, which has four cases, according to the district.
It’s not clear if the positive test results came back in between Friday and the beginning of this week. When pressed, Nadine Drew, a district spokeswoman, said the student and employees tested positive “in the last 30 days” without getting more specific.
The Sun Sentinel reported Tuesday that a first-grader at Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School, which is operated by the city of Pembroke Pines, has also tested positive for the virus.
The Florida Department of Health released a list Tuesday that shows another Broward charter school, Somerset Academy, also in Pembroke Pines, has one confirmed case.
Students and teachers in Miami-Dade County returned to in-person class last Monday, the first day of a staggered start that resulted in 142,000 students returning to classrooms by Friday, about 55 percent of the district’s 255,000 total students. (The remainder of the students are learning remotely.)
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ COVID dashboard stated Tuesday that 11 students and one employee have since tested positive.
MAST Academy on Virginia Key closed for a day Monday after two students there tested positive over the weekend. The school reopened Tuesday, but some parents said the development made them reconsider allowing their children go back until they’re convinced health and safety conditions markedly improve.
Monroe County, which has had far fewer coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations than Broward and Dade, opened back up to in-person learning in September. Since then, the Florida Keys district has reported a total of nine students, one teacher and two non-teaching staff members who have tested positive.
Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, said Tuesday she is closely monitoring the situation at the schools and continuing to get intelligence from her teachers, including those at charter schools, which unlike those in Dade, are union members.
So far, Fusco remains wary that the district has a cohesive plan in place for all schools in terms of filtration systems, safety and security. But, although 46 staff members and one student coming down with COVID so soon into the reopening process is concerning, she noted the district has 247 schools.
It’s too soon to say if they should close again, she said.
“If cases rise, we should go back to virtual. If they maintain, we should keep the bricks-and-mortar schools open,” Fusco said. “We have a group of teachers and students who want to be there.”