COVID-19 quarantines causing staff shortage at Dr. Phillips High School

19 staff, 82 students in quarantine as of Friday

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – More than 100 people from Dr. Phillips High School have recently been asked to quarantine due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, including teachers and staff members, leading to some classroom staffing shortages.

According to the Orange County Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard, 101 people are in active quarantine as of Friday -- 82 students and 19 staff members. Since Jan. 1, there have been eight reported cases connected to the campus, all but one are school staff.

Dr. Phillips principal Suzanne Knight is among those in quarantine. She sent a Connect Orange recorded message to families Friday assuring them that campus activities are being covered by school district staff and substitute staff.

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Many of the quarantines will expire on Tuesday, according to Knight, who will also return to campus that day.

Orange County Classroom Teacher Association President Wendy Doromal said while 19 staff are out for quarantine, other staff members-- who could be out out for other reasons --bring the total to 24.

“We have been hearing from teachers yesterday who are very concerned because they got emails from their principals asking them to make sure they don’t miss school tomorrow because so many teachers are out,” Doromal said.

An email obtained by News 6 shows Knight asked school staff not to take Friday off because of the staffing shortage.

“We have been stretched to the limits with teachers, staff, and administration out this week… I want to THANK everyone who has assisted! It is recognized and greatly appreciated,” Knight’s email sent Thursday read. “Tomorrow is Friday – please do not take off at the last minute – as tempting as it may be for a long weekend. If you are not sick, we need you at work.”

School staff are concerned about the lack of leadership on campus due to quarantines, according to Doromal, who shared several emails sent to OCCTA from school staff.

“The conditions instructional staff are having to endure are unacceptable. Our entire administration team is quarantined and working from home, so we don’t have any leadership on campus,” part of a Dr. Phillips High School staff email to OCCTA read. “Several teachers are also not here, leaving classes uncovered and (redacted) being called to substitute for the entire day. I understand that as non-classroom instructional staff, we may be called to cover a class from time to time and have no issue with this. But having no leadership on campus has caused a lot of chaos.”

As of 2 p.m., Thursday there were 24 instructional staff out and 12 classes unfulfilled. But by Friday morning, OCPS district officials say only 23 teachers were out and 18 of those classrooms were filled by substitute teachers, while 5 were left unfulfilled. The district brought in personnel to cover for those remaining 5 classes.

Dr. Guy Swenson, the former principal of Olympia High School, stepped in to help with administration at the school on Friday as a relief principal, according to officials.

“If you are asking a teacher to teach in a school with no leadership and no administration on campus, what happens in case there is an emergency and emergencies happen in schools like that? I think that’s asking far too much of a teacher,” Doromal said.

Since August, there have 50 reported cases tied to the school, according to the dashboard.

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