PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The next time one of your children’s classmates test positive for COVID-19, you may not find out about it. School districts are changing the way they notify parents about COVID-19 exposures.
Starting Sept. 13 in Pasco County, parents of middle and high schoolers will no longer receive a call or email if a student in their child’s class tests positive for COVID-19. Pasco County School District leaders say they’re making the changes after several parents complained about getting too many calls and emails about COVID cases.
“Given the nature of middle school and high school schedules, a handful of positive cases often results in notifications going school-wide, with some parents receiving multiple notifications of possible exposure. This change pertains to middle school and high school only. Daily notifications will continue at the elementary school level,” an email and phone call sent to parents in Pasco County explained.
The change upsets John DeSantis, a Pasco County father of two.
“I want to know right away if my child has been exposed because I can mark it on the calendar and we can keep an extra eye on them and react as soon as possible rather than later,” he said. “Hearing about the change, one of my first reactions was instant anger.”
Amy Davis agrees. She argues the change leaves parents like her in the dark and unable to make informed decisions.
“I don’t understand how it can be too much (to send messages about every COVID case impacting a classroom) when we are talking about lives here,” she elaborated adding that even when kids don’t get seriously sick, they can still spread the virus to others.
Steve Hegarty, the spokesperson for the Pasco County School District, says they carefully considered making the change.
“We’re trying really hard this year to find the right balance. Last year we definitely got feedback that perhaps we sent too many kids home on quarantine. A lot of kids lost instructional time and suffered for it,” he added.
ABC Action News also checked in with Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. In those districts, students are only notified of an exposure if they sit within 6-feet for more than 15 minutes of a student who tests positive for COVID-19. Entire classrooms are not notified.
That’s a change from last year when some schools were notifying parents about every case.
“Why can’t it be as simple as you can have parents opt-in if you want the messages and for parents who don’t want the messages, they can opt-out?” argued John DeSantis.
Parents tell ABC Action News it’s especially concerning since masks are optional this school year.
“To know that there is no more contact tracing, no more notification whether we should quarantine or not is really frustrating,” Davis added.
Pasco County leaders are telling parents to follow along with the COVID dashboard online, but it doesn’t give any specifics about which classroom or lunch period a COVID-positive student was in.