DCPS teachers say COVID-19 notification process is too slow

Some taking steps to make sure students know as soon as possible if they’ve been exposed to coronavirus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some teachers are taking steps to make sure their students know as soon as possible if they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus.

When a case of COVID-19 is identified in a school community, the department of health does the contract tracing -- not the school district. Those investigations take time, and while the district is taking steps to speed up the information, teachers told News4Jax it’s still having an effect on the classroom level.

Mike Melaugh usually teaches civics at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle, but he’s staying at home for another couple of days after he was exposed to a case of COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago.

“I’m completely ineffective. I am not doing my job. I have no way of ensuring that anybody’s learning at the standards," Melaugh said.

Melaugh told News4Jax someone in his family got it and let him know early last week. After that, he immediately did two things: let his administrator know and then called the families of his students.

“(A) friend put a message on my whiteboard in my classroom to let the face-to-face students know,” Melaugh said.

Melaugh ended up testing negative, but protocol said he still needed to quarantine. He also said it took days before hearing back the Florida Department of Health.

“If I had not volunteered the information, I would never have been told to be in quarantine. Although the right thing is for myself to be in quarantine,” Melaugh said.

A Duval County mother, who asked to remain unnamed, told News4Jax her child’s teacher also independently called her about testing positive for COVID-19

“So when we got that information, I got nothing back from the school, no principal called me, nothing. So I was, like, not an email," she said. “So I was, like, ‘OK. This is not cool.’”

Both the mother and Melaugh said the current system of tracking and notification of COVID-19 cases in schools is too slow, but neither were able to offer an alternative process.

On Monday, Duval County updated its COVID-19 reporting dashboard to show positive cases as they’re identified instead of waiting until contact tracing is completed. That day saw 25 new confirmed cases -- the second-highest daily total since the dashboard was launched.

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