‘We are as prepared as we can be’: Manatee County schools less than a week away from reopening

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Schools in Manatee County are set to reopen for in-person classes starting Aug. 17. Since teachers returned to their classrooms last Monday, there have been multiple cases and exposures to the coronavirus. None of the confirmed cases were contracted while employees were at work.

The Manatee County School District tells 8 On Your Side that details regarding the cases are limited to protect patient rights under HIPAA. Here is the breakdown from last week of what we know about the cases:

  • Ballard Elementary: One employee confirmed, one employee with direct exposure.
  • Buffalo Creek Middle: One employee confirmed, however, the confirmed case had not been on campus since the previous week. Three employees had direct exposure to the confirmed case the previous week.
  • Harllee Center: One employee confirmed, one employee with direct exposure
  • Samoset Elementary: One employee confirmed, six employees with direct exposure.
  • School Support Center: One employee confirmed, one employee with direct exposure.

Throughout the summer, the district has been hard at work looking at different ways to keep school safe as they reopen to students.

After each exposure in the last week, cleaning crews fogged and sanitized the school or facility, or a portion of the school or facility the same day or evening that a case was confirmed as positive.

The district has been utilizing an electrostatic spraying device to get schools back up and running as quickly as possible.

“There is going to be the occasional situation that arises where we have a test positive case show up. We have staff that has been trained in utilizing certain products as well as a device that we use called an electrostatic sprayer,” the Manatee County Schools Director of Maintenance, Operations, and Central Distribution Todd Henson said.

He says the benefit of the spraying device is that it is quick and effective.

“We can go into a school and clean the areas that have had folks that possibly had tested positive walk-through or work in. With doing that, we can put that school back on line pretty quick. So depending on the amount of time, it can be an hour to two hours it could be a little bit longer if it was the whole school,” said Henson.

Right now, the district only has one of the electrostatic spraying devices, but two more are on the way to help once students are back in the mix.

Henson says in order to keep schools clean, safe and open — a team effort is necessary.

“There is no way we can provide enough custodial staff to wipe every door handle and desk every minute of every day,” said Henson.

The district is providing each teacher with a one-gallon jug of hand sanitizer, a 500-count pack of wipes and a disinfectant spray.

“We are as prepared as we can be with the resources that we have,” explained Henson. “I think the whole thing goes back to being a total team effort. It has got to be us, it has got to be the community, it’s got to be the parents, it’s got to be everybody. Everyone has got to be in this thing and they’ve got to follow along with the best practices.”

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