Polk charter school delays campus learning due to COVID-19 cases

Polk County

LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) – Plans to bring students back to a Polk County charter school have been delayed after two people tested positive for COVID-19 and several staff members may have been exposed, according to a statement on the Lake Wales High School Facebook page.

“The campus will undergo a deep cleaning, per CDC-recommended guidance, early next week. All staff will also be instructing from home until this has taken place. At this time, all teachers are ready to continue to teach online,” read the statement from Donna Dunson, the principal.

The statement does not provide details on who tested positive. However, students have not returned to the school since March.

The charter school, which operates outside the public school system, began virtual learning Aug. 24, with the option to return in-person beginning Aug. 31.

School leadership aims to welcome students back to campus on Sept. 14.

In the meantime, families can pick up a Chromebook and hot spot at the school Tuesday from 11am – 3pm.

“What do you do? You worry about the pandemic or do you worry about your kid getting an education?” asked Kimberly Walton, the mother of a Lake Wales High School junior.

Walton’s son, Andrew Sturm, particpiates in virtual learning
Photo courtesy Kimberly Walton

Walton lives in a rural area of Lake Wales where high speed internet is not available.

“Zoom requires a lot of bandwidth. We’re able to do Google Meet with no issues so some classes he can, some classes he can’t,” she said. “He had one assignment where he was to do a slide with 50 photos. Only two photos went through because our bandwidth is not strong enough.”

Walton told 8 On Your Side school leadership is helping find a solution for her son.

“The hot spots they got, we were told if it didn’t work in the area that they would go to roaming. That is not the case. The hot spot does us no good,” she said.

“We were eager for your return, but nature had another idea about our start date. We miss our students and are looking forward to their return, but we are committed to making the learning environment on campus as safe and healthy as possible,” wrote Dunson, who said she also had to quarantine.

Superintendent Dr. Jesse Jackson did not respond to 8 On Your Side’s request for an interview.

On Aug. 20, a staff member at South McKeel Academy, a charter school in Lakeland, tested positive for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Polk County Public Schools reported 21 cases at 16 schools, as of Monday.

Students returned to the public schools on Aug. 24.

If a child has been told to quarantine, that child cannot return to school until he/she has completed the quarantine period, even if the student presents a negative test, according to policies detailed on the Polk County Public Schools website.

If a family member of a public school student tests positive, that child is not allowed to return to school.

Students who test positive must show a negative test result.

8 On Your Side does not know of any plans to close Polk County Public Schools.

Our requests for clarification went unanswered Monday.

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