“Whether or not I agree or disagree, it’s just not my choice”: Alachua County Public School parents react to quarantine protocols

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Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 7:02 AM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Parents now have the decision to send asymptomatic students to school despite direct contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19 after the Florida Department of Health changed state protocols last week.

RELATED STORY: Florida Department of Health rule allows parents to opt students out of COVID quarantines, ACPS will not change policy

In Alachua County, however, this rule does not apply as Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon said the school district will continue to follow current policies which do not allow parents to opt-out of wearing masks or quarantining.

“Whether or not I agree or disagree, it’s just not my choice,” said Jennifer Qualls, mother of a 7th-grade student at Westwood Middle School.

She said her unvaccinated son is back at Westwood Middle School this week after quarantining due to exposure to COVID-19. She fears for his education, adding that the back and forth between in-person learning and virtual learning is difficult.

“Honestly I’d probably still send him if he didn’t have any symptoms and was wearing a mask because I think that makes a big difference as opposed to showing symptoms and not wearing a mask,” said Qualls.

RELATED STORY: ‘Alachua County can’t override the parents’: Gov. Ron DeSantis responds to school mask mandate

Markesha Pinkney is also a parent of a 7th-grade student at Westwood Middle who did not have to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 due to being vaccinated. She said safety is her number one priority.

“I guess I could’ve kept him home but it was explained to me it wasn’t necessary,” said Pinkney.

ACPS’s plan in place for contact tracing and isolation are in line with the CDC’s recommendations and prove to be most effective in keeping numbers down, according to UF health Pediatrician Sonja Rasmussen.

“We know kids can be infectious for a couple of days before showing any symptoms some kids can have the virus in their nose and not show any symptoms at all,” Rasmussen said. “I think the school board has made a lot of decisions and is doing their very best to keep kids safe.”

Last week Alachua County Public Schools reported 51 new cases of COVID-19 cases compared to 293 a month earlier.

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