JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students and staff of Fletcher High School headed back to school Thursday morning after being out of their classrooms for more than a week.
The entire school was moved to online learning because of several COVID-19 cases. Health officials linked the source of the outbreak to activities outside of school, including a party attended by multiple students.
According to Duval County Public Schools' infection dashboard, a total of 42 students and four staffers have tested positive since August. Most of those numbers have been linked to an outbreak two weeks ago that led administrators to close the campus and sideline athletes involved with several athletic teams.
Dr. Pauline Rolle, director of the Florida Department of Health in Duval County, which conducts contact tracing for the school district, said a “fair number of students” developed symptoms of the virus.
Rolle also said that her office was late to receive many test results, which slowed efforts to notify parents and students who might have been exposed to a student who tested positive for the virus.
“Often times families know way before we do, sometimes even up to a week before we do, that they have a positive case in their household. So we have gotten complaints from the community saying, ‘Oh my God. It’s taking so long for you guys to get to us,’” Rolle said. “So we have asked people to let us know if they have gotten a positive (result) and have not heard from us.”
In an email sent to parents Thursday, Fletcher High School Principal Dean Ledford wrote:
“We will continue to follow all of our safety protocols we had in place prior to the closure. Continue to stay safe at home and throughout the community. If your student still has direction to quarantine from the Department of Health, please adhere to that guidance. Otherwise, we really look forward to re-gathering as a school community on campus tomorrow.”
One parent of a Fletcher High freshman told News4Jax on Thursday that her daughter was anxious to get back to in-person learning.
“I think they should’ve stayed hybrid until after Christmas,” Shannon Burbridge said. “They’ve done a great job at Fletcher, I know they are doing the best they can and the principal is amazing. Outside we have that division some people are very cautious and some people don’t believe it’s even a problem at all so, yeah, I’m concerned.”
Douglas Anderson School of the Arts was also closed for a COVID-19 outbreak. In-person sessions for those students and staff are expected to resume Friday.