78ºF

How are Jacksonville-area schools preparing for possible coronavirus outbreak?

News4Jax went county by county to find out what local schools are doing to prepare.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the United States braces for a possible coronavirus outbreak, public health officials are urging parents to ask their school districts about contingency plans.

News4Jax went county by county to find out what local schools are doing to prepare as U.S. health officials warn Americans to get ready for a worst-case scenario.

One thing is clear: Everyone’s lives will be disrupted in one way or another if cases of coronavirus break out in the Jacksonville area. There’s the possibility of school and daycare closures and a need to transition to continuing education online.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of when this will happen and how many people in this country will become infected," said Anne Schuchat, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Already in Florida schools, officials are keeping a close eye on total absences and the number of students who visit the clinic.

Baker County

News4Jax checked with our local school districts starting in Baker County where school officials say they are giving thought to internet-based schooling if an outbreak were to happen.

Duval County

Duval County School officials were asked if there is staff trained to recognize the symptoms of coronavirus in schools.

“If necessary, training would be provided to clinic staff by the Florida Department of Health nurses assigned to each school,” a spokesperson told News4Jax.

RELATED | Duval County to disinfect public schools, restrict school-sponsored travel amid coronavirus scare

When it comes to early dismissals and or closures DCPS said: “We will take our direction from the Florida Department of health’s Epidermally Department who is now in close contact with the CDC.”

Administrators are encouraging frequent hand washing and extra emphasis is being put on the cleanliness of school facilities themselves.

St. Johns County

The district on Monday said it was taking the several steps to stop or slow the spread of all respiratory illnesses in its 43 school, including coronavirus, including:

  • Day-to-day reporting by school nurses to district the county health department of all students identified with “influenza-like” illness.
  • Encouraging parents to keep sick children home.
  • Students who become sick at school or arrive at school sick are sent home as soon as possible.
  • Encouraging frequent hand washing often.
  • Encouraging respiratory etiquette (appropriately covering coughs and sneezes).
  • Increased cleaning by the custodial staff of frequently touched surfaces (light switches, doorknobs, counters, etc.), as well as all school buses.
  • Monitoring for changes in usual absenteeism patterns.

“Should there be a confirmed case of coronavirus in our county, local health officials will provide guidance for any school dismissals. Recommendations will be made on a case-by-case basis based on the most up to date information about Coronavirus and the specific impacts on the community,” St. Johns County Superintendent of Schools Tim Forsom said in a letter to parents. “We are also working with principals to work on alternatives to deliver instruction if a student or school is required to stay home by the St. Johns County Department of Health. This will be a case-by-case basis based on the student situation and/or the school. We do our best to be proactive, but in this situation, we must take our direction from the Department of Health and then support students and families.”

Clay County

The Clay County School District said it’s working closely with the Florida Department of Health and Clay County Emergency Management to track updates regarding the coronavirus. The school district said several actions are in place to decrease the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the coronavirus.

When asked if clinic staff will be trained to recognize the symptoms of the virus, a school district spokesperson said all health room staff are being trained on protocol and procedural elements following the Department of Health guidelines as it relates to the coronavirus.

Administrators are encouraging frequent hand washing often and extra emphasis is being placed on the cleanliness of school facilities themselves.

Nassau County

A statement from a spokesperson for the Nassau County School District reads: “The District is coordinating with our local health department and receiving guidance from other agencies, such as CDC and NEFEC (Northeast Florida Education Consortium) to develop a plan of action for each of the items you identified below. We should have a written plan completed within the next couple of days.”

Officials are placing CDC-issued posters showing students how to stop the spread of germs in every school. And each Wednesday, school officials participate in a statewide conference call with emergency management officials on medical emergency preparation.

Administrators are encouraging frequent hand washing often and extra emphasis is being placed on the cleanliness of school facilities themselves.

Putnam County

A statement from a spokesperson for the Putnam County School District reads:

According to the Center for Disease Control, Putnam County is at low risk for the spread of the virus currently. The Putnam County School District is asking our community to follow the CDC prevention guidelines that include:

  • Everyone should always practice good personal health habits to help prevent flu.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Remain home for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use at least a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.

Administrators are putting extra focus on the cleanliness of school facilities themselves.


About the Author: