Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program suspended at Volusia elementary over COVID-19 concerns

A teacher’s union has informed FOX 35 News that Timbercrest Elementary School in Deltona is shutting down its Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK) because a student has tested positive for COVID-19.

Now the teachers are worried about what’s to come when schools reopen next month   The president of Volusia United Educators said a student felt sick two days into the program at the school. The next week, she said the principal told teachers that the student tested positive for COVID-19 and they need to quarantine.

"It’s very troubling, and this is just an indicator of what is to come," said Elizabeth Albert, Volusia United Educators president.

Volusia County Public Schools confirmed the program has been canceled for the rest of the summer but said they could not elaborate on specifics.

“We cannot talk about specific student or staff health issues due to privacy laws," said Kelly Schulz, Director of Community Information. "There were five students and three teachers involved in the VPK program at Timbercrest. As for questions about COVID-19 reporting, we do have protocols in place if any student or employee believes they were exposed to or contracted COVID-19.” 

A state order issued this week by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requires all schools to open their doors in August.

"It also doesn’t mean that every single school district in every part of the state is going to approach it the same way and there’s nothing wrong with that," DeSantis said.  "We have a diverse state."

DeSantis said Friday that he believes there’s a “low risk” for students returning to the classroom.

"Just understand the cost of not giving kids an option to be able to have in-person instruction is enormous," he added.

"We want to return to our schools, and we want to be with our students, but we want to do so in a manner that’s a safe and healthy return," Albert said.

That could mean alternating days for students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for schools, advising desks are six feet apart and students wear masks.

Volusia United Educators is expressing concern for what’s to come next month.

"Students, teachers, and educational support professionals should not be sacrificed just so our economy can reopen," Albert said.

The Volusia County School Board meets on Wednesday when we expect to about the plans for the upcoming school year.