whispering pines

Palm Beach School District Hides Whispering Pines COVID Case, Now Considers Changes

Boca Raton COVID-19 Florida News Palm Beach County Schools
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Parent, Not School District, Notified Child’s Classmates and Teacher. Source: School District Lawyers Placing Privacy Over Common Sense.

whispering pines elementary

BY: ANDREW COLTON | Editor and Publisher

BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — A first grader at Whispering Pines Elementary School in West Boca Raton tested positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday, but neither the Palm Beach County School District nor the Florida Department of Health notified the boy’s classmates or teacher that they may have been exposed. Instead, after waiting a day for school officials to respond, the boy’s mother took notification into her own hands. She called the parents of every student in the class, and her son’s teacher, to let them know of the positive COVID-19 test.

“The mom is a hero,” said a parent contacting BocaNewsNow.com. “She did the right thing. The school district tried to cover it up.”

Whispering Pines Elementary School Principal Barbara Riemer notified the general school community on Wednesday that someone had tested positive in the school. She did not identify the person as a child or employee in her late afternoon robocall, only stating that contact tracing was underway. But even by Sunday — four days later — no parent of a child in the class had received a personal call from the school district or the Florida Department of Health. The teacher wasn’t notified, either.

Inexplicably, even though the school and school district knew of the positive case on Wednesday, October 7th, the boy’s classmates and teachers were not told to stay home on October 8th or 9th. They were not told to quarantine. They were not told to be tested themselves. It was business as usual on Thursday and Friday even though administrators knew the boy’s classmates, the boy’s teachers, and anyone they came into contact with could have been exposed to COVID.

“We are continuously reevaluating our notification process,” said Palm Beach County School District Spokesperson Claudia Shea to BocaNewsNow.com on Sunday. “We are not trying to hide information from anyone.”

Palm Beach County School District administrators with knowledge of the matter but not authorized to speak to BocaNewsNow.com say that Whispering Pines Elementary School Principal Riemer was following directions instituted countywide by the school system’s attorneys. They stress that she did nothing wrong. Those attorneys, according to our sources, are placing privacy over common sense.

“The lawyers are prohibiting school principals or other administrators from telling parents and teachers anything about infections,” said the source. “It is a bad situation. The attorneys are afraid of lawsuits over privacy concerns. They should be worried about lawsuits from COVID-19 spread that they could have prevented. They have put principals in an impossible situation. Parents think principals are calling the shots. They’re not.”

BocaNewsNow.com reported extensively last week on claims from within the school district that the Florida Department of Health is moving too slowly for school district contact tracing to be effective. DOH Spokesman Alexander Shaw, in an email to BocaNewsNow.com, didn’t refute the claim.

The issue is timely. Parents must decide this week whether their children will engage in “distance learning” or “in person learning” for the rest of the semester. At least 64 students and staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 in the school district as of Monday morning.

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