Central Florida schools prepare for coronavirus threat

No cases currently reported in Florida, governor says

Though Gov. Ron DeSantis said there are currently no reported cases of the new coronavirus in Florida, Central Florida school district officials said they’re preparing anyway, should the virus hit the region.

Though Gov. Ron DeSantis said there are currently no reported cases of the new coronavirus in Florida, Central Florida school district officials said they’re preparing anyway, should the virus hit the region.

Flagler County School District officials are among the list of Central Florida school leaders preparing for a possible outbreak.

Custodial staff is disinfecting every surface, which is something district officials said is done on a daily basis.

“We’re stressing the hand-washing. We’re stressing all the things we do this time of year when you have the influenza around,” information specialist Jason Wheeler said.

[RELATED: How to prevent spreading, contracting Coronavirus COVID-19 | There are no reported Coronavirus cases in Florida, officials say]

On Thursday, school officials said a few parents had already called with concerns, with one asking if their child could wear a mask to school.

The school district met with the Flagler County Health Department on Thursday and learned that only people who are sick should wear them. The health department also said that parents or guardians should notify school leaders if their child or relative recently returned from China or South Korea.

Wheeler said if a school were to shut down, students in grades 3-12 would use their school-issued iPads and MacBooks to communicate with their teachers.

“We’re not doing this any time soon. We’re just being prepared -- what it would look like if we had to shut down schools and still continue learning,” Wheeler said.

Volusia County School District leaders said they’re working closely with the health department, along with Volusia County Emergency Management officials, and said the district has a pandemic plan in place.

“Is it something that we should be flippant about? No, not at all," Wheeler said. “But it is something we need to be paying attention to.”

Volusia County School District officials released the following statement Thursday, asking parents to keep children home from school if they’re sick:

“As with any contagious illness, parents, students and staff are asked to stay home from work or school to avoid spreading infections, including influenza, to others in the community. Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wash hands frequently to lessen the spread of respiratory illness. People experiencing cough, fever and fatigue, possibly along with diarrhea and vomiting, should contact their physician.”

Officials with the Sumter County School District said they have not made any changes to school health procedures yet but is continuing to monitor the situation.

“We are in regular communication with the Sumter Department Of Health, and we are actively monitoring the Center for Disease Control for updates on the status of the virus in Florida. Sumter has reviewed our health procedures and compared them to information released by the Florida Department of Health and the CDC regarding effective procedures for prevention. No changes are recommended at this time, as the procedures in place for influenza prevention and containment meet the recommendations made for the Corona virus to date.”

Osceola County School District officials released a similar statement:

“Ensuring the health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority for the Osceola County School Board. The district continues to be in regular communication with Osceola County Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health about the coronavirus, and is following their guidance.”

Osceola school officials also asked parents and students to take similar precautions to the ones they would to avoid the flu.

News 6 has reached out and is still waiting to hear back from other Central Florida school districts.

About the Authors:

Loren Korn is a native Texan who joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2014. She was born and raised in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism.