Osceola County welcomes students back from winter break, sees high absentee rate due to COVID

The Osceola County School District is the first in Central Florida to welcome students back for the Spring 2022 semester.  

FOX 35 News learned lots of students did not go to class Monday.  

"Today, we had 12,660 absences as of last count, which is 23.06% of the district's student population [this number does not include charter schools]. On a normal day in December, we had about 5,100 absences, so today’s number is more than double that daily norm," district spokesperson Dana Schafer told FOX 35 News.

Heading into the week, none of the public school districts had mask mandates in place. 

"My oldest is wearing a mask by choice. My little one wears it sometimes. My daughter doesn’t wear it, so I don’t make it," Tonya Miller said.  

She sent three children back to Osceola County Public Schools, grades 2, 8, and 9, but wasn’t too concerned about the COVID-19 omicron variant. 

RELATED: Masks mandatory for adults in Orange County Public Schools in January, superintendent says

"We’ve made it this far, and we haven’t had it yet," Miller said. 

Other parents aren’t that comfortable. 

Spring semester starts in Brevard County Public Schools Thursday.  

Tamsin Wright is a board member with Families For Safe Schools.  

Her organization wrote letters to school board members asking for an emergency meeting to re-impose a mask mandate.  

"In light of the omicron surge, we want all staff, all students [and] any volunteers on campuses to be masked," Wright said.  

A spokesperson for Brevard County Public Schools tells FOX 35 News, "We are in the process of discussing the best way to welcome students and staff back from winter break."

Students in Volusia County go back to class Tuesday. 

Masks are optional and district officials say personal protective equipment will be available.  

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins sent a Connect Orange message out to parents over the weekend.  

She’s asking teachers and staff to wear masks on campus while encouraging parents to mask-up their children. 

"Due to the highly contagious nature of the omicron variant, we strongly encourage you to consider face masks for your students at this time," Dr. Jenkins said.

Lake County Public Schools are back in session Tuesday, too. 

District leaders took to social media to tell parents a few things to know before sending their kids to school.

"If you show any symptoms of illness, please stay home." 

And, "Rapid COVID-19 test kits are available at each school, while supplies last, for any student or employee showing symptoms," Lake County school officials said.

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.