DCPS works to craft permanent policy for handling communicable diseases

Group to present recommendations to school board about district’s mitigation of future health crises

A special committee of the Duval County School Board meets on Sept. 13, 2021. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend what was expected to be a more “normal” school year, an ad hoc committee of the Duval County School Board met Monday morning to talk about updating the district’s permanent policy for dealing with communicable diseases.

In its current form, the board’s policy in this area is narrowly focused on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was fairly consistent with other Florida districts.

“As we looked at policies from all across the state of Florida, the communicable diseases policies that we saw happen to focus a lot on HIV and AIDS,” school board chair Elizabeth Andersen said. “I think that it’s likely that we haven’t seen a pandemic with quite the same impact or need to make sure that we’ve got all of the mitigation strategies in place and all of the procedures and processes in place to take care of children and our staff and keep them healthy in our district.”

The district examined the communicable disease policies from Miami-Dade, Polk, Seminole, Leon, Hillsborough, Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange counties’ school districts for reference on whether and how to expand the current policy.

A main factor in the discussion was the fact that different communicable diseases are transmitted in different ways and, therefore, require a variety of strategies to mitigate their spread.

“What we’d like to do is get out of that emergency rulemaking process and take a look at our communicable diseases policy and see if we can update it and make sure that all of the pieces, in giving some authority over to the superintendent to create those procedures, but that’s encompassed all in one policy,” Andersen said.

Any changes to school board policy would have to be approved by a majority of school board members.

Because we have not ever seen anything like the current pandemic, we have never had an established policy in place to deal with a disease like this so the school board has to use emergency rule making. The plan now is to make a plan to avoid having to use those emergency actions for future pandemics.

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