JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the Department of Health tracks multiple cases of coronavirus at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Duval County Public Schools announced Tuesday that the campus will be closed for another week and all students must use Duval HomeRoom.
“While the Department of Health continues its contact tracing work in response to the active cases of COVID-19 at our school, it is clear that the number of close contacts will exceed the district’s threshold requiring the school to stay online if more than 20 percent of the students are needing to quarantine,” the district wrote in an email.
The district said students can return to campus starting on Oct. 30.
“All extracurricular activities, including group rehearsals, practices and other events will be suspended during this time,” according to the district.
The district said in a statement on Sunday evening that the cases appear to be linked to activities outside of the school, but wouldn’t specify what those activities were.
According to the DCPS COVID-19 case dashboard, nine students and two teachers had tested positive since the school year began on Aug. 20, but there is usually a lag between when the cases are reported to the district to when the cases are added to the dashboard. Six new cases were reported on Sunday, the dashboard shows.
“Similar to Fletcher last week, this is precautionary while we wait for the Department of Health to complete contact tracing,” DCPS spokeswoman Tracy Pierce said in a statement on Sunday afternoon. “Also similar to last week, these cases appear to be linked to activities outside of school.”
While the school is closed, it will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and will consult with county health officials to determine when the school can re-open. The health department will contact students and staff personally if there they need to quarantine for a longer period.
“I think they could’ve handled it better,” said Aniyah Kargbo, a 10th grader at the school.
Kargbo says she would have liked to have seen a quicker decision to close the school.
“So even the school, they still haven’t called my mom to say this, because I know a girl that sat right next to me has it," Kargbo said. "She texted me, and the school is yet to inform my mom that I was next to someone who has COVID-19. So I think they could’ve done better, they could’ve done it more quicker with more efficiency.”
Kargbo said she’s not certain if she’ll return to campus.
“I think it depends on if they take the right precautions and stuff with the students because, I mean, I’m happy to return to campus," she said. "I like being on campus better than online, but I just hope it’s safer now. They do more to prevent this from happening.”
Last week, when cases began to be reported at the school that Amy Hynes-Johnson’s 10th-grade son attends, she told News4Jax she believed the new cases at the school likely stemmed from dance event after which a visiting choreographer later tested positive.
“Lots of people without masks, you know. We could see them on their Instagram and on their stories, posting pictures, no social distancing," Hynes-Johnson said.
An email from the school’s principal was sent out Friday letting families know about the confirmed cases at the school and that contact tracing is underway.
Hynes-Johnson said the communication should have been much faster.
“I do understand that they’re trying to contact the parents of the impacted children first. But they’re trying to keep it a secret, but it’s really not a secret from teenagers, they know already,” Hynes-Johnson said.
DCPS uses the 20% exposure threshold when deciding to close an entire campus. That means if one-in-five students and staff, who are in the brick-and-mortar format, are found to have been exposed, then the whole school will be moved to virtual learning.
“On behalf of the leadership, teachers and staff at Douglas Anderson, we will continue to work to make the online experience the best it can be and look forward to regathering as a school community on the 30th,” the district wrote.