How many COVID-19 cases does it take to close a Duval County school?

Over the first four days of the 2021-2022 school year in Duval County, the number of positive COVID-19 cases listed on the district’s online tracking dashboard grew at a nearly exponential rate.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Over the first four days of the 2021-2022 school year in Duval County, the number of positive COVID-19 cases listed on the district’s online tracking dashboard grew at a nearly exponential rate.

After only two cases were listed on Tuesday, one student and one employee, the following days saw six students, 18 students and 41 students added, respectively.

Duval County Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard screenshot taken August 15, 2021. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

In total, 82 cases were identified among students and staff during the first week of classes.

With so much information flying around social media, and by word of mouth, it’s important to remember that the dashboard isn’t the full picture of how COVID-19 is impacting the community. It’s meant to give families access to reported cases at their school each day, that’s it.

The dashboard is updated each weeknight around 8 p.m. and each update includes all the cases reported to the district by 4 p.m. on that day.

Midway through last school year, the district stopped waiting for the Florida Department of Health to confirm cases before posting the data to its dashboard but, DCPS communications director Tracy Pierce said Monday that the department is still the main source of record for COVID-19 activity.

“The Florida Department of Health has the responsibility in the state for tracking actual healthcare data,” he said. “We’re simply reporting those cases that are reported to us, of people who are inside of our school buildings who are testing positive for COVID-19. So it is zeroing in on that data that impacts that school building. And that’s the most relevant to families of that school community.”

While it hasn’t been used so far this year, the district also plans to use a similar process to decide if and when an outbreak grows to the point that a classroom, a school, or the entire district has to move to virtual learning.

Generally in Duval County, if 20% of a class or school has been exposed, that switch will happen.

“But again, that is if the department of health said to move this classroom to online learning or to remote instruction in some way, we would obviously heed the direction of the department of health, both for a classroom or a school-based closure,” Pierce said. “You know, it’s a changing situation, just like it was a changing situation last year. Schools are resilient and adapting. And I think that our schools are adapting exceptionally well to what we’re being faced with.”

Some Duval parents are not waiting for a COVID-19 outbreak and are opting to move their students to other virtual learning options now.

Recently, Rolline Sullivan made the tough decision to pull her youngest from their magnet program in favor of Duval Virtual Instruction Academy.

“So even though he loses his magnet spot, we thought that that was worth it, you know, his health is worth it first, first and foremost. So we pulled him out of his current elementary magnet school,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan’s older children are attending in-person, wearing facemasks and protected by the vaccine. But she says her youngest is not eligible for the shot yet.

“With the cases soaring, COVID cases soaring in Duval, with my youngest son not being vaccinated, my husband and I decided that it just wasn’t for the benefit of my child that it would be better for him to stay home,” she said.

Sullivan said she later received a notice from the district offering her an opportunity to return her child to the coveted magnet program from DVIA by Wednesday if she changes her mind.

But she said that’s not going to happen.

News4Jax requested the latest enrollment numbers for DVIA and Florida Virtual School but we have not received that data yet.

About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.