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Florida district ends excused absences over COVID-19 spread concerns

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Florida district ends excused absences over COVID-19 spread concerns
Students wear masks when they enter the East Side Community High School in the East Village of New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The school district in Orange County, Fla., has ended excused absences for children who are not sick but are staying home as a precaution over concern about the spread of COVID-19.

The district, which is the ninth largest in the United States, serving more than 206,000 students at 202 schools, announced the policy change Wednesday in a Facebook post.

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Starting on Monday, Orange County Public Schools "will no longer be able to provide excused absences" for children of parents keeping them home "during the increased COVID-19 cases," according to the post.

"The number of cases has continued to decline, and we continue to require face masks for adults and strongly encourage them for students," the post continued. "It is also an additional strain on our teachers as they continue to manage assignments for large numbers of absent students."

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The post added that non-attendance for such reasons could result in truancy because "the state has not extended the quarantine code to be used in accommodation of absences."

Previously, COVID-19 safety protocols allowed parents to write notes to receive excused absences if they were keeping their children home due to being exposed to COVID-19 or "out of an abundance of caution" in addition to a child being sick, according to the district's website.

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According to the updated guidance, children who test positive for COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms, should still stay home.

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Wendy Dormal, president of the Orange County Teacher Association, told WKMG in Orlando that parents and teachers texted her that they were concerned about the change.

"They are worried about going into schools where they know there are high case numbers," Dormal said.

There are 19,548 confirmed COVID-19 cases within the district, according to OCPS' COVID-19 dashboard, including 3,877 employees, 15,594 students and 77 vendors or visitors.

RELATED Order letting parents opt out of schools' COVID-19 mask mandates takes effect in Virginia

In September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new rule allowing COVID-19 quarantine to be optional for asymptomatic students.

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