“I feel like this is violating the parents’ freedom to make decisions..."By Andrea Alvarez

A Pasco County mom is speaking out Wednesday after she says a lack of transparency from the school district is putting students at risk of Covid-19. School officials issued a response Thursday stating they’re working diligently to catch up.

It’s been two weeks since students and teachers returned to class in Pasco County. Since then, district officials have noted the process of adapting to Covid-19 procedures as overwhelming.

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“We are drowning. We are struggling to stay afloat. And I would love to be able to answer all the questions of all the emails that I get,” said Superintendent Kurt Browning said during a recent board meeting.

Pasco County parent Laura Parks says she too has become flustered by the disarray.

“I’m in communication with a lot of families that go to our school on Facebook and I think everybody at this point is just super frustrated about the lack of transparency,” said Parks.

According to the district’s Covid-19 protocols available online, students who’ve been exposed to the virus should stay home. The issue, Parks says, is confusion after being notified.

“The class will get an email that says ‘Hey, your student was in class this day. They came in contact with a positive student. You can come to school until you start showing symptoms and then you have to go’,” she explained. So, she and other parents began reaching out.

“We’ve had a slow response which is very expected because they’re overwhelmed. When we reach out to the district, we get no response or a very generic response,” said Parks. Another concern she has is the recent inaccurate case count.

“Is the dashboard up to date or not? You know, is it accurate,” questioned Parks. It’s a topic also addressed during the school board meeting on august 17th.

“This district has prided itself on being transparent, particularly when it comes to the numbers of Covid cases and we post those. We’re going to be changing that because it really doesn’t give an accurate picture. Those numbers are relatively low,” said Superintendent Browning during that meeting.

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The site has since been updated, according to the district. Still, Parks says she and other parents plan to stay vigilant.

“I feel like this is violating the parents’ freedom to make decisions for their family by not having all the information,” she said.

After speaking with Parks on Wednesday, Pasco County school officials responded to those concerns in a statement:

“Due to the number of cases, many were not immediately included in our Daily Report. Since the superintendent made that statement we have made tremendous strides in catching up on the cases – that means notifications are more timely and our Daily Report is up to date.”

Regarding how many students are impacted, the district stated:

“This week those numbers have not been reported in our Daily Report. We discontinued that when the numbers were not accurately reflecting the cases.” Officials also state that they are keeping in contact with principals “who report that their notifications are going smoothly. I don’t doubt that some are still working to catch up. Unfortunately, we tried to handle the notification process at the district level and leave the schools to focus on instruction. But as of last Friday, we asked principals to take over that responsibility. In some ways that wasn’t fair to principals, but it is much more efficient than relying on a very limited number of district staff.

Pertaining to concerns about requiring students who have been exposed/direct contact to quarantine, the district responded saying:

“The rules for quarantine are 6 feet for 15 minutes. We are notifying parents of potential exposure when their student has student in their class who tested positive. So, not everyone is required to quarantine. We have shut down entire classes when that was appropriate.

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Much of our day is spent responding to calls and emails. I’m sure some are not getting a response as promptly as they would like. But it is much too broad a statement to say we’re not responding. Some perspective. This is a pandemic. The Delta Variant is highly contagious. Hospitals and school districts and lots of other organizations are all doing their best to keep up with an alarming number of cases. There are few options for us other than to keep plugging away at it and try to explain what we’re doing. The questions from the public are legitimate and some aren’t satisfied with the answers. That’s completely understandable because this is a very difficult situation that involves the health of family members.”