Situation Deteriorating In Palm Beach County. Parents Must Be Present For Younger Students To Be Tested. Parents Continue To Send Sick Kids To School.
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — The Palm Beach County School District is preparing to offer limited COVID-19 testing in schools. There’s a catch. Younger children must have a parent present for the test to be conducted — an apparent “gotcha” that may stem the current crisis of parents sending sick children to school.
As BocaNewsNow.com has been reporting, school administrators are frustrated and angered that parents countywide — knowing their children are displaying cold or COVID-like symptoms — are still sending their kids for “brick and mortar” education. While 60 percent of the 180,000 student population remains engaged in distance learning, there is significant illness among those learning in school buildings. At least 549 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the Palm Beach County School District as of Friday, November 13, 2020.
It was not immediately clearly if parents of children testing positive at school could face disciplinary or legal action. BocaNewsNow.com has previously reported — based on multiple sources — that children have told teachers or nurses that their parents knew they were sick, but needed a day off to play tennis or golf. While not the majority, these stories have generated such concern among school district leaders that they have initiated multiple robo-calls — reminding all 180,000 families in the school district that sick children must stay home.
This letter, from Palm Beach County School Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy, is being transmitted to the entire school district today.
Hello parents and guardians,
As the District’s COVID-19 Dashboard indicates, confirmed cases among students and staff in the School District are increasing. While our commitment to following COVID-19 safety guidelines has kept the numbers relatively low, the cases on our campuses reflect what is occurring in the community at large.
The District will continue to remain vigilant and will soon embark on a major initiative together with the Palm Beach County Health Care District and the Florida Department of Health, intended to keep students and staff even safer. Shortly after Thanksgiving break, District nurses will have BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Tests available to administer to students enrolled in in-person instruction for the first semester, who show potential symptoms of COVID-19.
In order to administer the test, parents or guardians must first provide their written consent to the School District. The consent form is attached to this letter for your review. In a few days, your child’s principal will follow up with parents whose children are currently attending in-person classes on their campus.
Your principal will explain the process for returning the signed consent form to the school, should you wish to have your written consent on file. For those who don’t wish to offer consent, no further action is necessary.
By reviewing the consent form, you will learn what’s involved in the voluntary testing process. Parents and guardians will also receive additional information by email, text message, and on our District website, palmbeachschools.org/CovidTest.
It is important that the consent form remains on file at the school so that it is available in the event that your child is symptomatic and you would like him or her to be tested by the school nurse. I’d like to call your attention to some important details about the testing and consent process:
- Tests are being provided by the State of Florida. Thus far, the State has provided almost 9,000 tests to be distributed among all District-operated and non-District operated schools in Palm Beach County, with the assurance that more tests are coming.
- Since the number of tests is limited, the rapid antigen testing will only be offered to symptomatic students when the tests are available on-site. Again, only for those students currently enrolled in in-person instruction.
- Tests will be provided on a voluntary basis only to those students and staff who a school nurse determines are showing symptoms of COVID-19 while at school, and for whom a consent form is on file. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, fever or chills, dry cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of sense of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
- The rapid antigen tests will only be administered by a school nurse. School nurses have been trained on how to administer the nasal swab procedure. Test results usually take about 15 minutes.
- The only students who will be tested by the school nurse, are those whose parents/guardians have returned the consent form indicating prior parental approval. However, additional in-person or verbal consent will be required at the time of testing.
- For children in grades Pre-K through 2, a parent or guardian must be present at the time of testing.
- For children in grades 3 through 12, once the consent form is on file with the District, the parent/guardian can provide verbal authorization to proceed with testing. A parent or guardian can choose to be present for testing of students in this age range, but it is not required.
- It is possible that some students may undergo multiple rapid antigen tests throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Prior to any test being done, the parent/guardian will be contacted.
- There is a possibility that a test could yield an inconclusive, false negative, or false positive result. Therefore, additional testing may be necessary.
- It is the parent or guardian’s responsibility to follow-up with their medical provider and seek advice and treatment if necessary.
- Positive test results will be reported to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and disclosed as allowed by applicable law to school administration as needed.
I encourage everyone to carefully read the consent form, and discuss it with your children, so that they are also aware of the process, should they need to be tested while at school. I also want to remind parents to keep their student home if the child is exhibiting any symptoms of any illness.
These are challenging times for all of us, which is why it is critical that we each do our part to follow all necessary guidelines, wear facial coverings, wash hands, and maintain social distancing wherever possible. Please visit palmbeachschools.org/CovidTest for more in-depth information. If you have any additional questions, please contact your child’s school directly. Thank you for your continued support of the School District of Palm Beach County.
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