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Pasco students want better notification if they've been exposed to the coronavirus

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U.S. Department of Education
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Sarasota has stopped individual contact tracing of middle and high school students. But Hillsborough and Manatee still inform families of exposure by phone, and Pinellas alerts families by mail and phone if necessary.

Omicron has exploded in schools across the Tampa Bay region this year and some local high school students say their district isn't doing enough to notify them of possible exposure.

Tampa Bay’s schools have struggled throughout the pandemic, managing their way through each new variant. Omicron has exploded in schools across the Tampa Bay region this year and some local high school students say their district isn't doing enough to notify them of possible exposure.

At a Pasco County Board meeting last week, the Tampa Bay Times reported that some high school students said the district needs to notify each family by telephone.

Right now, the district keeps families informed of cases with a coronavirus dashboard on its website. But Pasco high school students implored board members to return to its earlier system of calling families to warn of exposure, saying the current system isn't effective and causes confusion, the Times reported.

Steve Hagerty is the spokesman for Pasco County Schools. He said the district had been calling each household to warn of exposure — but the district stopped middle and high school contact tracing.

"As the numbers went up that became very, very difficult to continue doing," he said.

Some parents were frustrated that they were receiving multiple calls a day, Hegarty added. On Friday alone, the district reported more than 200 positive cases.

Hagerty said the district will continue discussing solutions with the students and their families.

"We're trying to strike the right balance so that we're being transparent enough and at the same time we're not spending endless hours and just being an annoyance to some parents who are receiving multiple phone calls."

Like Pasco, Sarasota has stopped individual contact tracing of middle and high school students. Instead, these schools will "notify all of their families on a daily basis about the current number of cases in their child's school," according to the district.

But Hillsborough and Manatee still inform families of exposure by phone, and Pinellas alerts families with an email or a letter sent home with the student, and by phone if necessary.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the way in which physical notifications are sent home for families with students in Pinellas County.

Bailey LeFever is a reporter focusing on education and health in the greater Tampa Bay region.