When Mike Kidd’s daughter was exposed to someone at Sunlake High who tested positive for COVID-19, the school called to inform the family that she would need to quarantine.
Kidd took it in stride.
After all, the district has been asking families to do their part to help stop the spread of the virus.
In fact, he told the school that there were two other girls in the family that attend the same school, so his family would keep them home, too.
Initially, the school official agreed.
But then, the family was notified that the two girls who had not been directly exposed were deemed as being absent from school.
When the family tried to explain they were keeping the girls at home because their sister had been exposed to COVID-19, they were told that wasn’t the district’s policy, Kidd said.
The district’s practice follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, Steve Hegarty, a spokesman for Pasco County Schools, said via email.
The Department of Health — Pasco County also follows the CDC’s guidance, according to an email from Melissa Watts, spokeswoman for the health department.
But that doesn’t make sense to Kidd, who said if his daughter was exposed at school and came down with the virus, it was very likely that the virus would be spread to his other two daughters, since they are frequently in close contact with each other.
“Obviously if students wearing masks and “socially distanced” at school would need to quarantine, my other daughters who sleep in the same room, lay in the same bed/couch and watch movies, hug, etc., should also quarantine,” Kidd told The Laker/Lutz News, in a letter to the editor, he sent via email.
It just seems practical to quarantine the student’s siblings, when another student in the family is required to quarantine, he said.
Hegarty explained the school district’s practice works like this: “The family would have received a call from the school, as well as an official letter from the Pasco Health Department informing them of the need to quarantine their daughter. That letter would not have instructed anyone else in the home to quarantine because there was no evidence that any other family members had been in close contact with a person who tested positive.”
Hegarty said the district requires quarantine only “for those students and staff members who were in close contact.”
He also noted: “What definitely would not be practical is requiring quarantine for anyone who came in close contact with a person who came in close contact with a person who tested positive.
The district has had thousands of students quarantining and the number would be much higher, if it followed the practice of quarantining all siblings, Hegarty wrote. In fact, that practice could result in entire school populations being sent home, in some cases.
A parent can decide to keep a student at home, Hegarty said.
“It will be marked as an absence. It could be an excused absence, but still an absence. It would be up to the school and the family to ensure that the students don’t fall behind academically – regardless of whether they are quarantined or simply absent,” the school district spokesman said.
Pasco County Schools, COVID numbers*
1,319 positive student cases; 16,999 students impacted
594 positive employee cases; 1,492 employees impacted
Impacted cases are those who were required to stay away from school due to a positive case that resulted in quarantine.
* As of Jan. 25
Source: Pasco County Schools
Published January 27, 2021