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Pasco County: Middle, high school parents no longer will get calls about COVID exposures

After parents' complaints about getting too many robocalls, Pasco County Schools changed how parents are notified following COVID exposure.

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Pasco County Schools emailed parents on Thursday, Sept. 9, to notify them of a change in how student exposure to COVID-19 will be communicated.

Now, middle and high school parents will no longer be notified on a case-by-case basis. Instead, they can go to the county's website and see how many total cases their child's school has. The data is not specific to grade level or classroom.

Previous to this change, the school conducted robocalls, informing each parent or guardian if their student was considered a potential exposure. The schools said for middle and high schoolers, this could result in as many as 150 calls per positive case.

"This year, we are hearing from parents they're getting too many calls," Pasco County Schools spokesperson Steve Haggerty said. "That results in message fatigue, which means the parents aren't listening to the calls."

Secondary school students have a greater opportunity for exposure, compared to elementary school students who remain in the same classroom for the majority of the day. Middle and high schoolers have several different classes in different rooms, exposing them to more people.  

Haggerty said the policy change was in response to parent complaints. Some parents told the schools they were receiving several calls a day of their student being exposed to COVID-19. 

The schools do not require or give recommendations to students to quarantine after exposure. The schools leave it to the department of health, which will mail the student's family a letter if quarantine is needed due to close contact with a positive COVID-19 case. 

"There are so many cases right now," Haggerty said. "The chances are, there is potential exposure on a campus on any given day." 

Haggerty said last school year, students had to quarantine so frequently, it impacted their learning. 

Credit: Pasco County Schools

The county's daily COVID-19 report page shows how many total cases a school has. The only details given are if it is a student or staff case.

Pasco County Schools will consider changing its approach if circumstances change. But will cases as high as they are, Haggerty said this is what the schools feel is the best approach.

How does Pasco County's COVID-19 exposure policy stack up against other counties? Here's a breakdown:

Citrus County Schools:

  • Parent/guardian received a phone call notifying of student exposure
  • Determination of exposure is based on seating charts
  • School protocol outlines when a student can return based on vaccination status, symptoms, and COVID test results
  • Click here for more details

Hernando County Schools:

  • Schools reach out to students who have been within 6 feet of a positive COVID case for 15 or more minutes
  • Notification is sent from 'Global Connect Message' from the school at the end of the day
  • Click here for more details

Hillsborough County Schools:

  • School administrators call parents of students who are determined to be a close contact of a positive case. They let the parent know their child has to quarantine and for how long (unless they are vaccinated).
  • Entire school notified of positive case.
  • Click here for more details.

Manatee County Schools:

  • Parent/guardian notified by phone call of student exposure.
  • Exposure guidelines for students wearing a mask: within 3 feet.
  • Exposure guidelines for students not wearing a mask: within 6 feet.
  • Click here for more details.

Pinellas County Schools:

  • Parents of exposed students will be directly contacted by the school and/or the Department of Health-Pinellas.
  • The Department of Health-Pinellas (DOH-Pinellas) makes all quarantine decisions. Quarantine decisions for fully vaccinated people will be in accordance with the current government-issued guidance regarding public health.
  • Click here for more details.

Polk County Schools:

  • School-wide notification is sent on positive COVID case
  • Individuals who have come into close contact exposure with a positive case (within six feet for 15 minutes or more) will also be notified by an automated telephone call with instructions for quarantining
  • Click here for more details

Sarasota County Schools:

  • COVID exposure is notified through the Department of Health.
  • Vaccinated students do not need to quarantine.
  • Unvaccinated students can return to school on/after day 5 with a negative COVID test or on/after day 8 of exposure.
  • Click here for more details.