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Palm Beach County ends mandatory school quarantine

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Palm Beach County School Board meeting Wednesday September 22, 2021. (WPEC)

In a 5-to-2 vote, Palm Beach County school board members agreed late Wednesday evening to update its current quarantine school policy and follow the new rules issued by Florida's newly appointed surgeon general hours earlier.

READ: State revamps COVID-19 rule for schools

The new guidelines put quarantine decisions in the hands of parents, prohibiting schools from ordering students exposed to COVID-19 but showing no symptoms to remain home.

It was the center of an emotional regularly scheduled school board meeting.

Alexandria Ayala and Dr. Debra Robinson opposed the new rule.

“I think it’s bad for the public health,” said Dr. Debra Robinson, District 7. “I’m going to respectfully disagree and I won’t support it.”

Before the vote, parents, even elementary school students, shared their opinions about COVID-19 protocols for students, including mask mandates.

One mother focused on a 7-year-old at the meeting during public comments. She claims the student was suspended for not adhering to the rules in school, adding, “this little 7-year-old has not been in school two weeks. How do you go to bed at night? I can’t even see Mr. Burke look at her, look at her.”

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Another woman said, “your power-hungry dictatorship has gotten out of control.”

“This is not okay, this is child abuse and you’re orchestrating it,” another mother said.

At one point, parents called school leaders bullies, singling out one board member who they said was seen at a party at The Breakers Palm Beach days ago without a mask.

“The reason why you do not have respect from the people you serve is because you have not earned it,” one mother said.

An elementary school student said, “It is not fair that I keep getting punished because you guys, the school board, are not following the law. It’s not fair. It’s just isn’t right. I’m going to stand up for what I believe in.”

The previous stay-at-home rule required at least four days of quarantine, followed by a negative COVID-19 test. It also required a seven-day quarantine without a test before asymptomatic children could return to campus.

Dr. Joseph Lapado’s rule echoes the governor’s focus on parental rights.

Thousands of students in our area missed school in the first month of classes due to COVID exposure.

Late Wednesday night, the Palm Beach County School Board also said it would expand testing to asymptomatic students when it becomes available in an effort to mitigate asymptomatic spread.

Parents should be receiving a letter from the district with the new updates on Thursday, according to a school district spokesperson.

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