Parents worry that face mask rules are being ignored at Newberry schools

Jennifer Scott’s daughter was sent home from Newberry High School (NHS) on Sept. 24th because she was exposed to a student who tested positive for COVID-19 and was last in contact with that student on Sept. 23rd.
According to the note sent to Scott, her daughter can return to school with a negative COVID-19 test result on 10/2 or can return without a test at all on 10/7.
Alachua County Public Schools Spokesperson Jackie Johnson said parents reported that two faculty members at NHS are not enforcing the mask rule in their classes so, according to Johnson, the principal and vice principal were sent to check on those teachers and when they did, observed that both were enforcing the face mask rule at the time.
Johnson said that the NHS administrators, “have had to remind kids how to wear them (face masks) properly and have had to write up a few kids after several warnings.”
For now, Scott’s daughter is home spending as much time in her bedroom as possible and trying to avoid coming into contact with her 75-year-old grandmother, three siblings and parents.
Scott consulted with a pediatrician who has advised her not to send her daughter to get tested but wait it out and monitor for symptoms.
“The doctor doesn’t want to expose her to anyone,” Scott said.
Scott’s daughter has told her about the lack of enforcement of face mask use at NHS that includes students wearing masks under their chins without correction.
Another parent said she is concerned that her child is coming home and saying that not all the teachers are wearing face masks.
Parents of middle school students attending Oak View Middle School say the same complaints are coming from their students as well.
“Kids will wear it under their chin and nobody says anything,” Scott said.
Alachua County Health Department Administrator said several schools are being investigated including Newberry because of received complaints.
“The Alachua County Health Department is in daily contact with the SBAC, coordinating testing, quarantines and isolation of persons under investigation, in addition to other communicable disease issues,” Myers said. “In terms of enforcing mitigation rules, the SBAC has the authority for this and I have alerted them of this particular concern.”
According to the ACPS rules, students, staff and faculty are required to wear face masks unless they are eating.
At sporting events, fans, players, officials and coaches are supposed to wear face masks unless the player is on the field participating.
After reports from parents of crowded stands at sporting events and little face mask use, ACPS Athletic Director Charles Wise sent a letter to district athletic directors reprimanding all of the schools that he oversees Buchholz High, Gainesville High, Eastside High, Newberry High, Santa Fe High, and Hawthorne High for not following the 25 percent capacity  and face mask use rules.
Last week, the County Health Department had all 39 members of the Hawthorne football team tested.
The number of cases continues to rise rapidly according to the ACPS COVID-19 dashboard.
Last week, total students and staff in self-isolation was 74. On Monday, Sept. 28th that number jumped to 161 total students and staff in self-isolation Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.
Newberry High has the most active cases with 14 students and two staff members positive with COVID-19 as of Sept. 29th.
Scott said her daughter had planned to take part in distance learning but then NHS notified her that the course needed to prepare for the ACT could only be taken in person.
“I was all for all of the kids staying home,” Scott said. “Then with missing this class we decided to just go back to get this semester done.”
Now Scott said her daughter is “stuck in her bedroom.”
“We’ve been so strict,” Scott said about wearing face masks, washing hands and even attending church online. “Then I sent a kid to school and within three weeks she’s out sick.”
Scott wants the ACPS to enforce the rules and for students and teachers to wear face masks.
“If they don’t care about themselves at least care about someone else,” Scott said. “Look at all the kids that are home (under quarantine) and they might be with a blended family and it’s scary.”

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