Struggling with days-long quarantines, parents hope mask mandate gets kids back in class

Three days after her first-day-of-school photo was taken, Ashley Meyer’s daughter Hazel found herself in quarantine.

"When we had to go get her tested, I was like, ugh, this is just so frustrating because it’s the first week of school. And I can’t fathom having to do this all year."

A first-grade student in Hillsborough County, the 6-year-old was one of thousands of students quarantining within the first week, causing working parents to remain at home.

Friday afternoon, the school district’s online dashboard showed 13,485 students and employees quarantined.

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"We’re lucky because I work for myself and I work from home, so I have the flexibility," Meyer continued. "But when I speak to other parents, they don’t all have that option. They don’t work from home, and they just can’t take time off from work to do this."

Tiffany Littler is one of those parents.

"I can’t work from home," Littler said. "I go out to my clients’ homes – I’m a massage therapist. So it’s very frustrating when you constantly have to be quarantining with your child and you can’t be making money."

Littler’s 2½-year-old son Kai attends daycare in Riverview right now. Their quarantine policies mirror the district’s and he’s already had to quarantine multiple times.

"I just got in a week and a few days’ of work and then I got another phone call yesterday saying he had to be picked up immediately," she said.

Kai will have to quarantine for the next 10 days, and under their policy rules, Littler can’t have Kai tested for COVID-19 for him to return earlier.

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Hazel, Meyer says, returned to school Thursday – when the mandatory mask mandate began.

"I’m glad to see it, I’m glad it’s there, and I hope that at the end of the 30 days it makes a difference and they extend it," Meyer added.

She believes it could take that long to see significant changes, though.