Recess and physical education classes at two south Pinellas County schools were moved inside this week due to Red Tide, a toxic algae that continues to plague area beaches with throngs of dead fish and an unmistakable foul odor.
Principals at Madeira Beach Fundamental and Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach ordered that outside activities be held inside on Monday, according to school district spokesperson Lisa Wolf. Neither school had returned its normal routine by Wednesday.
Usually, Wolf said, air conditioning systems in the district's schools are shut down overnight. But Madeira Beach has been keeping its on to ensure fresh air is well-circulated indoors.
Respirators, or face masks, have been made available to students there who need or request them, she added. Masks haven't been given out at Gulf Beaches, but the school nurse is keeping in tabs on students with asthma and other breathing problems.
Jessica Snyder's son, Danny, is in third grade at Gulf Beaches. Since Red Tide crept from the Gulf of Mexico into the Intracoastal Waterway this weekend, their regular morning ride to school has turned somewhat somber, she said.
Dead fish "are visible from the road when we drive over the Corey Causeway," the mother said. "Mostly he's just sad that we see so many dead fish on our drive to school."
Snyder said her son has told her about doing push-ups and stretches in his classroom for P.E. — and about the headaches he gets on his walk to the cafeteria to meet his teacher after his mom drops him off.
Wolf said the district will keep a closer eye on how Red Tide moves through area waters, now that it has entered the Intracoastal.
"We have some schools that are close to the bay," she said. "At this point in time we haven't heard of any problems there."
Contact Megan Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mareevs.