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Area schools give post-spring break instructions to combat coronavirus

The current plan includes self-isolation after foreign travel.
The Grand Princess cruise ship, which carried multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, is shown docked at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
The Grand Princess cruise ship, which carried multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, is shown docked at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) [ JEFF CHIU | AP ]
Published Mar. 13, 2020
Updated Mar. 13, 2020

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Tampa Bay-area students’ return to school after spring break will, for some, involve some paperwork and possible self-isolation.

Notices went out Friday to those in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Hernando counties, advising them they will need to complete certain forms if they are deemed to be at risk of carrying the COVID-19 virus. Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning also gave instructions on Twitter.

Following requirements from the Florida Department of Health, schools have directed families and employees to let them know if the following is true:

  • They traveled out of the country or went on a cruise within the past 14 days.
  • They believe they may have been in contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus/COVID-19.
  • They believe they have symptoms of coronavirus/COVID-19, such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath.

If a student or employee in Hillsborough meets any of these three conditions, they must complete a “Return to School Report” that will be available on the school district website. In the alternative, they can call the school or work center by phone and have an employee complete the computer form for them.

Pinellas said any student or employee who meets the first condition “MUST self-isolate for 14 days upon return" and fill out a form that will soon be posted on the district website. Hillsborough said, “if you get sick with symptoms of coronavirus/COVID-19 or have contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you MAY be directed to self-isolate by the health department.”

The Hillsborough notice went on to say that the current state guidance calls for 14 days of self-isolation after any cruise or foreign travel. “This means no going to school or work,” the letter said.

The districts are advising families, in making travel decisions, to follow recommendations of the state Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control. Neither district has set restrictions on travel within the United States.

All of these directives can change at any time, both districts said. Updates from Hillsborough can be found here, and updates from Pinellas can be found here.

“We will continue to monitor this ever-changing situation, and we will continue to communicate with our staff and families over spring break as information becomes known,” Hernando Superintendent John Stratton said.

The instructions followed Thursday’s closing in Hillsborough of Farnell Middle School, where somebody — the district could not say if it was a child or adult — had spent time with a coronavirus patient. As a precaution, the district closed the school Thursday and Friday, two days ahead of spring break, for a deep cleaning.

Later Thursday, Tampa Preparatory School closed for the remainder of March, in part because of overlap between its school community and Farnell.

No schools had been closed in Pinellas as of Friday afternoon.

Across the state, however, the Palm Beach County school district took the unusual step of announcing it will close all schools next week, a full week ahead of the planned spring break.

The school district’s more than 11,000 teachers will be asked not to report to school, but administrators and cafeteria workers will continue to work, the Palm Beach Post reported.