How are SWFL schools addressing coronavirus concerns? Collier, Lee districts share plans, prep

Rachel Fradette
Naples Daily News

Collier and Lee county school districts are ramping up their preventative efforts in light of two coronavirus cases on Florida's west coast.

The push comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency Sunday following two “presumptively positive” cases in Manatee County and Hillsborough County. 

More:Florida officials waited 24 hours to inform public of coronavirus cases

Lee and Collier school district officials have sent home materials on what can be done to prevent the spread of disease. Also, a section on Lee schools' website relays coronavirus information for parents and community members.

There is no plan for Lee's board to get a presentation related to the virus; agendas have yet to be posted for this week's meetings.

Treasure Coast:School districts taking first steps to prepare against coronavirus threat

The Collier school district is working closely with the Collier health department through briefings while actively monitoring updates from the state's Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tammy Caraker, associate superintendent of district operations, said during a presentation to the Collier school board Monday that officials have reviewed the district's pandemic emergency response plan in preparation.

COVID-19 virus

The plan, meant for a “major concern,” does not need a lot of revisions, Patton said, except some updating of positions and older information so that it can be shared widely. 

A letter went home Monday to parents, in addition to an email from Superintendent Kamela Patton, that links to a page on the district website dedicated to updated health information related to the virus.

The district is sharing practices and figures with other school superintendents and districts through organizations.

“I really do feel like we’re in good company,” Patton said after Monday's meeting. “It’s good to have a variety of people actually supply information to us.”

Kamela Patton

Charter schools are also receiving information from the district.

Patton released a statement sharing CDC guidelines, like hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces, last week.

The statement comes a few weeks after Collier schools’ health officials shared an illness prevention presentation at a school board work session in February.

At the work session, Alison Sutton, director of health and nursing for exceptional education, said the district tracks student absences for "clusters" daily. A high number of absences that falls short of clusters still require deep cleans of school facilities. 

The district is reviewing protocols with ABM Janitorial Services, the custodial company that cleans Collier schools.

In the meantime, students will see more hand sanitizer stations added to their school campuses.

Students who are exposed to coronavirus are required to stay out of school for 14 days and must be asymptomatic in order to return, according to Department of Health and CDC guidelines, Sutton said at the work session.

So far, three students relocating from China to Collier County have enrolled in school after waiting 14 days and showing no signs of the virus, Jennifer Kupiec, a district spokeswoman, wrote in an email. The students enrolled in February, she wrote.

As far as educational materials, schools will put up posters addressing how to wash hands to remove dirt and debris and how to stop the spread of germs.

For middle and high school students, short lessons on virus and bacteria prevention, among others, will be shared with teachers. In grades K-5, age-appropriate health lessons are available.

In consideration of Gov. DeSantis' executive order, a set of five questions will be placed by each school’s entrance to have visitors consider “personal and collective responsibility and act accordingly in the best interest of all,” Patton wrote in an email.

The questions: Have you been in the U.S. for the last 15 or more days; did you travel outside of the U.S. prior to this 15-day period; did you travel to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, or Hong Kong; have you been in contact with persons or travelers to any of these countries at any time prior to today; have you experienced flu-like symptoms, coughing, or shortness of breath; if so, have you been seen by a physician or other health care provider such as a registered nurse.

"We need to be very careful how we target these questions and that's why we have made a decision to keep on the level of self-responsibility," Jon Fishbane, the district’s attorney, said at the meeting.

Patton said the signs, which will be posted after spring break, serve as a reminder for parents and others. 

For new students joining the district, registered nurses will now be placed at registration centers.

The district is also asking parents and guardians to keep their emergency contact information up to date.  

More:In the Know: Home sales strong, but could coronavirus scare threaten Southwest Florida's economy?

Collier’s school district plans to release a follow-up statement with more information Thursday ahead of spring break next week.

Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at

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