ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – At the close of the first day of school, the St. Johns County School District reported a total of 155 cases of COVID-19 in its schools.
Of those cases, 95 were students and 60 were employees. There were also a total of 168 quarantines — 33 staff and 135 students. There are a total of 45,600 students and 5,200 staff in the district.
For comparison, Duval County Public Schools, which has roughly three times as many students as the district in St. Johns County, reported 82 total cases in its first week — 66 students and 16 employees.
A St. Johns County School District spokesperson said a majority of the 95 student cases were reported by parents whose students were kept at home on the first day.
Bartram Trail, one of the largest schools in the St. Johns County School District, reported the most cases with 17. Freedom Crossing Academy, a K-8 school, reported nine cases, and St. Augustine High School reported seven cases. Valley Ridge Academy in Ponte Vedra Beach reported the highest number of quarantines with 13.
The St. Johns County School Board made the controversial decision to make masks optional for students this school year. It also discontinued temperature checks and desk shields, two COVID-19 precautions in place during the last school year.
“My boys wore masks this year, but I noticed it both drop off and pick up that not everyone had a mask on, but I would say a fair amount of the teachers and kids did wear the masks, which is good,” said Rebecca Ross, parent of two students.
Kristi Greiner, who has three students in St. Johns County schools, said she’s glad masks aren’t a requirement for students this year.
“I’m extremely happy about them not having to wear masks. I feel like they were very stressed about it last year,” she said.
The state recorded more than 31,700 new COVID-19 cases in Floridians age 19 and younger last week. There were also two additional deaths of Floridians under the age of 16 reported.
The new statistics come as the debate over school mask mandates continues to escalate.
The state’s largest teachers union is tracking school-related cases, quarantines and deaths. It’s found more than 5,400 infections of students and staff and more than 8,500 quarantines since Aug. 1, though a Jacksonville pediatrician said that number is likely much higher.