Sarasota County Schools will be back in session Tuesday following the winter break, and officials last week reminded parents and staff of the availability of COVID-19 testing of students and staff.
Appointment-only testing is available Monday through Friday at Florida Department of Health locations in North Port (8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), Osprey (8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and the Ringling Boulevard office in Sarasota (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) for symptomatic faculty, staff and students.
School staffers, faculty or parents and guardians must complete the COVID-19 Test Request form and email it to [email protected]. If you can't email the request, call 861-2941. When leaving a voicemail, include your name and return-call telephone number.
Students broke for the winter break on Dec. 23, and the school district has not updated its online dashboard of student and staff positive COVID-19 cases, but it plans to resume frequent updates as classes begin.
Parents are also reminded that face masks remain optional, in keeping with state law that eliminates mask mandates, though a message sent to parents last week included a reminder that masks are advised for anyone inside a school building, quoting Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols.
The district started the academic year with a mask mandate that would have automatically rescinded when the local rate of positive COVID-19 test results fell to 8% but would have reinstated with three consecutive days of a 10% positive test result rate. On Aug. 26, the Department of Health reported a positive rate of 15%. Last week, Sarasota County's seven-day positive rate was 21.49%
Also part of an emailed reminder to parents, the district said contact tracing and quarantine protocols were in line with the state's surgeon general.
The reminder said: "Parents and legal guardians of students who are known to have been direct contact with an individual who received a positive diagnostic test for COVID-19 may choose one of the following options:
"Allow the student to attend school, school-sponsored activities or be on school property, without restrictions or disparate treatment, so long as the student remains asymptomatic; or
"Quarantine the student. A quarantined student can return to school on/after the eighth day from exposure."
The school district also asked parents who could do so to drive children to school as a means of reducing school bus ridership. "Though our school buses are cleaned thoroughly and regularly, a temporary decrease in the overall amount of bus riders may help reduce the rate of potential COVID spread on our buses,'' the district said.