Jan. 28, 2022 -- Children kept home from Orange County, FL, public schools because their parents are worried about the spread of COVID-19 will no longer be granted excused absences, the school district has announced.
The district says the policy change takes effect next Monday and only applies to students who don’t have COVID. Children showing COVID symptoms are still encouraged to stay home.
“The number of cases has continued to decline, and we continue to require face masks for adults and strongly encourage them for students,” Orange County Public Schools said in an announcement posted on Facebook. “It is also an additional strain on our teachers as they continue to manage assignments for large numbers of absent students.”
The announcement said the state government has not extended “the quarantine code to be used in accommodation of absences in our attendance records,” meaning students kept home if they’re not actually sick would be considered absent without an excuse.
“We simply must discontinue the provision,” the school district said.
Parents worried about sending their children to school are encouraged to enroll them in the home school education program.
Orange County Public Schools is the ninth largest school district in the United States and the fourth largest in Florida, with more than 206,000 students at 202 schools and 25,000 “team members.” Orlando is the county seat.
The school district COVID dashboard on Friday said the district had 19,759 confirmed cases: 3,931 staff members, 15,751 students, and 77 vendors/visitors. There were 804 cases identified for quarantine.
Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, told ClickOrlando that the new policy worries many parents and teachers because there are still a high number of cases.
Doromal said teachers and parents need to be careful.
“There’s no social distancing because there are so many kids there, so that’s a disadvantage,” she told ClickOrlando. “So everything we can do, we have to do. As a parent, you want to protect your child and keep them home. You know, that’s an option for them. They can do homeschooling, whatever they have to do to keep their kids safe.”