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Positive tests at one elementary school worry parents:‘We are all afraid’

STORY BY GEORGE ANDREASSI (Week of September 3, 2020)

Some Beachland Elementary School parents are concerned about COVID-19 spreading and school being closed after two students tested positive for the virus at Osceola Magnet School.

“That is concerning,” said Tashae Golfe, who has a son in third grade and a daughter in fourth grade at Beachland Elementary. “We’re all really taking a risk. We are all afraid of it happening.”

Anabella Fiorini, who has a son in second grade at Beachland Elementary, said she was surprised the virus turned up at Osceola Magnet because the younger students are better about following the health and safety guidelines than teenagers.

“I’m going to just wait to see what’s going to happen next, see if any other schools are going to have the same issues as Osceola or if that’s going to be the only one,” Fiorini said.

“If that keeps happening with other elementary schools, then we’ll take him out, probably,” Fiorini said. “But as of right now, we’re just going to let him stay in school.”

The school district disclosed Saturday that nine Osceola students had been required to quarantine because health officials determined they had been in close contact with the two students who tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Vero Beach High School is considering cancelling its Sept. 11 football game at Venice High School because “a significant number” of players were quarantined after being exposed to a student who tested positive for COVID-19.

Altogether 46 students at Vero Beach High were directed to quarantine for 14 days and continue their studies virtually via computer after health officials determined they had been in close contact with the student who tested positive, said spokeswoman Cristen Maddux.

“The planning and preparation that we have done over the past few months resulted in handling our COVID case response at VBHS and Osceola very quickly and efficiently,” Maddux said.

No additional students had been identified as testing positive for COVID-19 as of 10 a.m., Monday, Maddux said.

The students who were quarantined are following district protocol to quarantine for 14 days and monitor symptoms, Maddux said. They are continuing their class work virtually.

“Our community seems very confident in the health and safety procedures we have implemented on campus, as we have had several families request for their student to return to brick and mortar after the first week,” Maddux said.

“It was truly amazing to see the resilience of our students as they jumped back into routine without hesitation,” Maddux said. “The students wore their masks and followed new procedures very well.”

Fighting Indians football coach Lenny Jankowski said he does not believe football activities caused the student to contract the virus, or that the season will be canceled.

“You never know, but I don’t feel like football was where this was contracted,” Jankowski said. “The way we run practice and how things went, I think our kids are all going to be OK and in a safe situation. We went through summer workouts since June 22. We were able to stay healthy.”

Practice went on as scheduled Monday afternoon, but with fewer players, Jankowski said.

“It’s definitely affected how things are going to go,” Jankowski said. “But for the kids that haven’t been exposed and the JV and freshman players, we’re going to continue doing what they like to do in a safe way and keep it rolling.”

The Venice High coach has been willing to be flexible about the game scheduled for Sept. 11, Jankowski said.

“He’s been kind enough to wait this out with us and see where we stand,” Jankowski said. “It doesn’t look great right now. That’s unfortunate. You’ve got another team on the hook. You don’t want to mess up anything.

“That’s the kind of game that gets not just state attention, but probably some national attention,” Jankowski said. “We as a program were looking forward to that game and I’m sure they were as well.”

A decision on the fate of the game is expected this week, Jankowski said.

As for the rest of the season, Jankowski said, “I think it’s promising. This was our first incident.”

Some Vero Beach High students said they were not surprised a fellow student tested positive for COVID-19 and fear the virus may spread and close the school, as happened March 13.

“It doesn’t really shock me,” Madison Hoffman, a ninth-grader, said about the student who tested positive for the virus. “A lot of people go without their mask most of the time even though it’s strictly enforced. You can’t really social distance in the classrooms.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if school got shut down for a little bit because of an outbreak,” Hoffman said. “I feel like the best thing to do in this circumstance is just be prepared for the worst, be prepared to go to online schooling.”

Ethan Thiel, a 10th-grader, said he believes the chances school will remain open the entire school year are “not very high.

“If the 46 kids that got sent home have it, school is getting shut down for sure,” Thiel predicted. “I’m seeing kids not wearing their masks correctly over their nose, or just not wearing it.

“I think they should follow the rules,” Thiel said. “They need to wear their masks correctly. I wear my mask correctly and I sanitize whenever I can.”