- March 10, 2020
Olympia High is closed for two weeks following several positive COVID-19 cases, Orange County Public Schools officials said, and all students and staff have moved to the [email protected] educational format during that time period. All extracurricular and co-curricular activities have been canceled as well.
OCPS and the Florida Department of Health in Orange County made the announcement Sunday, Sept. 6. The decision was made out of an abundance of caution after several positive COVID-19 cases were confirmed and connected through DOH-Orange contact tracing, they said.
Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins made the final decision with the consensus of the Orange County School Board, said Pam Gould, District 4 School Board member.
Face-to-face students and staff made the temporary transition Tuesday, Sept. 8, following the Labor Day weekend. All 922 face-to-face students and 190 staff members will return to campus Monday, Sept. 21.
“Currently, there are 156 students and staff (who) have been identified as having direct contact with the six individuals who tested positive and one pending,” OCPS stated. “According to (DOH-Orange), these cases are a result of community spread and not spread at school. The Florida Department of Health in Orange County provided specific information to the families directly impacted.”
Gould explained the process once a person has tested positive: “Every time we have a case, the principal is notified, and then we have a health (advisers group to) work in conjunction with the Health Department to come in and ID all the people who may have been in contact with the person who has COVID. And they determine who needs quarantine letters and see how far it has spread.”
The people associated with Olympia who tested positive were identified as having attended an off-campus social gathering, Gould said, and that may be the reason for the high number of infected persons and why the virus was not confined to just one area of the school.
The entire campus is being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, OCPS said, and DOH-Orange is offering free drive-thru COVID-19 testing in the school parking lot through a mobile testing unit. Testing priority goes to those in quarantine, and all testing is exclusively for Olympia High students and staff members who have been on campus and need to be tested. The school will provide details as they become available.
“[email protected] is the same educational model that was used by everyone at the beginning of the school year to prepare for a situation such as this and what the majority of Olympia High students and teachers are already using,” OCPS said.
“That’s the beauty of this option — so we can flex,” Gould said.
And although it’s great to have educational options, she said, everyone still should do their part to keep the virus from spreading.
“We’d really, really like people to observe social distancing and masking — even when they’re not at school, especially when they’re with people who they don’t know who they’ve been around,” Gould said. “My whole campaign is “Leave it cleaner than you found it and wear your mask.” Trying to get everyone to do something about this social distancing. … it’s just hard.”
“We still have children and their families who are not suffering from COVID but suffering from the effects of COVID,” Gould said. “That was one of the reasons why we chose options. We need the cooperation of the community. … To move forward and not leave any child behind and do the best that we can, we need … to ensure that kids and their families stay as safe as possible.
“That means if someone in your house has it, but your kid doesn’t have it, keep them home and take advantage of LaunchED,” she said.
While Olympia is closed, free breakfast and lunch are available for pick-up at Chain of Lakes Middle School from 4:30 to 6 p.m. through Friday, Sept. 18. Parents are required to provide a student ID with name and ID number to pick up their students’ meals.
“It’s hard, and you have to do things differently,” Gould said. “We all need to be patient and show grace and kindness. … We really need to have empathy for each other, and every family is different. Some people are going to get a bad flu, some won’t. … But you never know if someone is living with a grandmother or someone with cancer.
“At the end of the day, the board and I have to make decisions based on the whole and not the few,” Gould said.
“We’re doing everything we can as fast as we can, but we’re trying to keep everyone safe.”