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'Just the start:' Parents address school concerns other than masks

Posted at 5:44 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 12:32:38-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — "I really do believe that rocky Hannah is trying to do the best he can to mitigate the circumstances as they exist right now, and by mandating the masks."

Leon County parents like Wendy Halleck say they're pleased with the latest mask guidance from Superintendent Rocky Hanna, but there are still concerns over keeping students safe inside the classrooms.

"Last year, there was outdoor lunch available. I think it was actually how they ate most of the school year, but this year, everybody is packed in," said Gilchrist Elementary mother Jihye Sung.

Jihye Sung says she began taking her son out during lunch until the school put a stop to it.

" I got very concerned, so I decided to take my child out for lunch to eat with us, and then we were told that that will be an unexcused tardy," said Sung.

She says it was a frustrating conversation because other parents didn’t have the same issue, although it was resolved after some discussion with the administration. Sung now wants to see a schoolwide policy allowing more social distancing in the cafeteria or options for parents to protect their children.

Leon County Schools Community Director Chris Petley says principals are listening to teachers' and parents' concerns, ready to make adjustments to protect the children on a school-by-school basis.

"I wouldn't put a percentage on anything, the only thing I will tell you that is definite is that there will probably be changes in the future. Whether that's stricter or less strict," said Petley.

Parents like Heather Rosenberg are concerned about contact tracing. Rosenberg says those concerns are now heightened since two of her children have tested positive.

"The problem is both of those exposures that happened we didn't get notified until four and five days later," said Rosenberg.

Rosenberg says between delayed contacts and unclear quarantining guidelines, she's now worried her children could miss roughly 3 weeks of school; forced to do paperwork instead of the valuable instruction from teachers.

When a child is tests positive, the parent must call the school to report it. From there, the Leon County Department of Health issues quarantining guidance while the school and contact tracer review all seating charts. The school then identifies anyone who may have been within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes of the sick child.

Now LCS will work to approve an extra budget item for every school to hire someone to help with contact tracing calls, quarantine data, and keeping up with opt-out forms. That's in addition to LCS' current contact tracer.

"It takes time and it takes people. We just ask for the community to understand that process. We will continue to talk about it but we're working as fast as we can we're doing everything as safe as we can," said Petley.

LCS encourages parents to bring pressing concerns to the school principal in hopes of change but to remain patient as everyone works through the pandemic.