JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The board of Duval County Public Schools voted 5-2 on Tuesday to approve a new policy for how the district will tackle communicable diseases during an epidemic or pandemic.
The decision to refurbish the district’s previous policy, which mainly focused on students with HIV/AIDS, came after the board was forced to employ several emergency actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is the goal of this School Board to seek to provide, in the least restrictive environment, for the educational needs of each student to the maximum extent consistent with the needs of other students and the health, safety and welfare of all,” the policy states.
The policy gives the superintendent administrative power to control the spread of disease, once it is deemed to be an epidemic or pandemic, and requires that the approach taken must have a data-driven framework. In other words, the mitigation measures would have to be based on the levels of transmission in the community.
According to the policy, as they formulate the procedures, the superintendent must consult with an advisory team that includes public health experts, medical professionals, representatives of the District Advisory Council and/or the Duval County Council of Parent Teachers Associations and, if warranted, the chief/CEO of a local hospital.
The plan developed by the superintendent will have to outline the policies for mitigation including when someone should be considered exposed when they should quarantine, when they’re allowed to return to campus, and a method to communicate all the information to the public.
The superintendent will also be required to bring any policies before the school board for approval.
Board chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen said it was important for the district to adopt such a policy, something that many other school districts in Florida already had in place before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think the board is excited to have something more permanent in place that specifically addresses epidemics and pandemics should that ever come up in the future, but also to help us navigate through the COVID 19 pandemic that we currently face,” Andersen said.
The full board policy can be found on the DCPS district’s website.