TAMPA, Fla. — At the end of last school year, COVID-19 mandates, masks, and hybrid learning seemed to be a nightmare of the past.
"Now where we are, just about to start school, and cases are quadrupling," said Charlie Kennedy, with the Manatee County School Board.
With the highly contagious Delta variant, doctors say cases of COVID are on the rise again.
"Right now, we’re seeing more cases of COVID-19 being diagnosed in kids. So far, it's not more than last year, but it's as bad as last year," said Dr. Juan Dumois, Infectious Disease Doctor with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.
School is starting next week, and with a lack of virtual learning options like last year, and Governor DeSantis' executive order that schools cannot require masks, some parents say they’re really worried about sending their kids back.
"A lot of it is Deja Vu, like oh my god, I can’t believe we’re here again," said Carrie Singh, a parent.
Singh's children are going into first and fourth grade. She says she’s sending them to school in masks because they’re both too young to be vaccinated, but she doesn’t know what will happen.
"We’re expecting to have our kids home a lot, and I’m just preparing myself that we’re going to be quarantining a lot and substituting their education a lot at home," said Singh.
Many schools have virtual learning available but not like it was last year because schools are not getting funding for online learning like last year. Manatee County school board member Charlie Kennedy says many districts' hands are tied because of the governor’s order.
"I’m nervous too. I was nervous last summer but it turns out I was kind of wrong because masks did help," said Kennedy.
Dr. Dumois says washing hands, using sanitizer, and wearing masks are the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.
"If most of the kids or all of the kids wear a mask regularly, that’s going to minimize most of the occasional cases of COVID-19 from being introduced in the school setting," said Dumois.
But now that choice is left up to families.
Manatee County school district says if a student has to miss class because of an illness, it will be handled like it was pre-COVID, but now there are more tools available for kids to communicate with teachers.
But Singh says she's still worried for her children’s health and safety.
"It’s kind of like, we’re stuck. We have to just cross our fingers and hope for the best," said Singh.