School employees in Manatee County to quarantine after coworker tests positive for COVID-19

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Teachers across Manatee County reported back to school Monday to start preparing for the new school year.

The first day of school in Manatee County is Aug. 17.

Several staff members at Samoset Elementary School showed up to work Monday morning, only to be sent home a few hours later. The Manatee County School District tells 8 On Your Side one of the employees at the school tested positive for the coronavirus.

The school district provided a statement to 8 On Your Side Monday night:

An employee at Samoset Elementary learned they were positive for COVID. Employees who had direct contact with the confirmed case were sent home for 14 days. Portions of the school have been closed for disinfecting. Those employees who did not have direct contact with the confirmed case can return to work tomorrow.

Manatee County School District

Many families and teachers are wondering what the process of having a positive COVID-19 case on campus will look like once students are in the mix in less than two weeks.

“I am worried for the teachers. I am worried for the kids,” said parent Irma Olvera.

School board member and epidemiologist Dr. Scott Hopes tells 8 On Your Side the district has had multiple positive cases throughout the summer.

“This is really nothing new. Fortunately today, it appears that none of these cases originated in the school system. These individuals had gotten infected in other locations,” said Dr. Hopes.

Dr. Hopes describes reopening schools as a “delicate dance.”

“We are all in this together. This is going to be tricky. This is not something that we have done before in the past. I am not treating it as an experiment. We have enough knowledge to be able to put forth the protocols and the policies to do this as safely as possible, but we are all going to have to follow these guidelines,” said Dr. Hopes.

Ahead of the start of school, the school board member and epidemiologist is encouraging parents to get their children accustomed to wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing.

School board leaders are set to consider bringing rapid testing into Manatee County Schools during an Aug. 11 meeting. The topic was discussed during a board workshop Tuesday, but no decision was made.

Many teachers in Manatee County continue pushing for school to start online only. A group of educators rallied outside the district headquarters during the board workshop Tuesday to make their voices heard.

Middle school teacher Dan Hennessy feels there’s no safe way to bring kids and teachers back to school at this time.

“Medical expert scientists all say we should be below 5 percent. We are more than double that. Transmission rates are way higher than what is recommended, yet we continue to move forward. It’s just a game that’s playing with peoples lives and careers,” said Hennessy.

The middle school teacher explained he didn’t report back to his classroom this Monday. Instead he was at the doctor’s office.

“The reason I was at a doctor’s appointment yesterday is I am high risk. I had a meeting with my principal today and he said he is going to make a decision whether I am back in the classroom or not. My wife is also high risk, so if I were to bring this home, it could possibly kill her,” said Hennessy.

“Right now I have been told to prepare my classroom for 20 students. 20 students,” he repeated. “So there’s no way you can have social distancing in that arena.”

Hennessy and multiple other teachers in Manatee County are considering taking leave rather than going back into their classrooms and risking their lives.

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