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COVID-19 cases in schools double since second quarter start

STORY BY GEORGE ANDREASSI (Week of December 10, 2020)

COVID-19 cases have doubled in public schools in Indian River County since the second quarter started and one parent is blaming lax attitudes toward facemask and social distancing rules.

A total of 94 students and 30 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since the new school year started on Aug. 24, school district records show.

Of the 124 cases, 85 were diagnosed with the virus since the second quarter started Oct. 26, district records show. The 61 students and 24 staff members accounted for nearly 69 percent of the cases this school year.

Daniel Wehking, who has two children at Treasure Coast Elementary School in Sebastian, said he opted for virtual schooling at home via computer because he was concerned about his children’s safety.

“I think in general, they’re not taking the pandemic seriously,” Wehking said. “It’s a giant reach to make me keep my kids at home because they won’t follow CDC regulations.”

“There’s clearly something wrong if you’ve got students not wearing masks within 6 feet of each other,” Wehking said Friday.

Yet the school district regularly posts photos on Facebook of educators and students not wearing masks, Wehking said. That included Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appearance at the Vero Beach High School football team’s Nov. 27 playoff game at the Citrus Bowl against Orlando Boone High.

“You see pictures that were released on their Facebook page of the governor being within 6 feet of students, not wearing a mask, talking to them in the locker room before the game,” Wehking said.

An additional 1,800 students returned to class in person for the second quarter, joining 9,500 students who returned to school in August, district records show.

COVID-19 cases have also been rising at private and charter schools in Indian River County, a state Health Department report says.

St. Helen Catholic School in Vero Beach reported four students tested positive for COVID-19 during the week of Nov. 22 to Nov. 28, the report says.

Altogether the K-8 school has had 15 cases of COVID-19 this school year, including 12 students, one teacher and two “unknown” people, the report says.

St. Helen Catholic School closed a week early for Thanksgiving break in response to a rise in cases in November.

“School is back in session and there are no current COVID cases,” Jennifer Trefelner, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach Diocese, said Monday. “Everything there is looking good.”

St. Edward’s School reported one student tested positive during the week of Nov. 22 to Nov. 28, the report says.

“It was an Upper School student who was already home because of a previous, off-campus exposure, so no quarantines were ordered,” said St. Ed’s spokeswoman Monica Jennings. “The student is back at school. Right now, no students or teachers are home or quarantined.”

Educators at the barrier island prep school are working to keep the virus under control until Christmas break, Jennings said.

Overall, St. Edward’s School has had nine cases of COVID-19 – six students, two teachers and an unknown person, the state report says.

A student at Beachland Elementary School tested positive for the virus during the week of Nov. 22 to Nov. 28, the report says. It was the third case of the year at the island school, all involving students.

A student and an unknown person at Imagine at South Vero school tested positive for COVID-19 between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28, the report says. The charter school has had seven cases this year involving four students and three unknown people.

A student at Sebastian Charter Junior High School tested positive for the virus during the week starting Nov. 22, bringing the number of cases at the school to three for the year, the report says.
A student at Glendale Christian School also tested positive for COVID-19 that week, the report says. It was the private school’s second case.