HENDRY COUNTY, Fla. — The Hendry County School District announced Tuesday that all students will start the school year online. The decision was made because of the district's concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school board consulted with the Florida Community Health Center and the Hendry County Health Department about the positivity rates of the community.
Superintendent Paul Puletti says the current data shows children under 18 have an over 20 percent positivity rate when tested. In addition, the rate is 35.6 percent for adults in the county.
This is why community spread is the main concern for the school board.
The thought is, with thousands of children from all different areas of the county coming together in classrooms, a potential breakout could transfer the virus to homes in the community.
The first day for Hendry County students is Monday, August 24. Teachers will come into their classrooms, but they will be there alone.
“Nobody else will be in the classroom. The teacher will have however many students accessible online,” says Puletti.
Students will still be assigned to a teacher and they will watch instruction live over the internet.
At this time, superintendent Puletti says he can't pinpoint a date when students will physically return to the classrooms.
“When we work with our State Department of Health in Hendry County, once it starts (school), we will assess all of the data to determine when brick and mortar can open,” says Puletti.
The vote to move schools online passed 4 to 1 in the board meeting, but it was met with some opposition from other members.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the total number of coronavirus cases in Hendry County stands at 1,691 with 37 deaths.
With these numbers, the Hendry county Superintendent says, this is not a risk he's willing to take.
“We understand that brick and mortar needs to happen. We understand children need to get back in school, but we want to do it as safely as possible, not just for the students but for all faculty and staff in the building,” says Puletti.
At this time it is not clear if the school could face legal action for their decision to not offer an in-person option for the beginning of the school year. Superintendent Puletti says he believes having all students attending online will be temporary.