MILTON, Fla. (WKRG) — COVID cases are on the rise in schools across Northwest Florida but not what was seen at peaks in the pandemic.

On Tuesday, there were 50 students out in Santa Rosa County due to COVID-related absences.

That number is up slightly from early December, but administrators expect more cases.

“We certainly anticipate that number will go up based on the fact that this variant seems to highly contagious, although the symptoms seem to be milder,” said Santa Rosa County Superintendent Karen Barber.

Students with COVID and symptoms of COVID have been using school-issued laptops to keep up with work while they’re out.

Barber says staffing is also taking a hit in Santa Rosa County amid the new omicron variant outbreak.

About 40 staff members were out on Tuesday due to COVID-related absences — compared to fewer than 5 each school day in December.

“Should this go up, I’ll expect that we’ll have to do some coverage from within,” Barber said. “We won’t have adequate subs to completely cover all of our classrooms.”

While addressing the recent outbreak of the omicron variant on Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said precautions like getting the vaccine should be taken but mask mandates in Florida schools still won’t be allowed.

“Forcing kids to wear a mask for eight hours a day is a thing that most parents, many parents do not want,” DeSantis said. “We of course give parents the option if that’s something you think is good.”

Barber said the Santa Rosa County School District plans to follow the law.

“It required by law that it’s the parents choice as to whether their student wears a face covering and we’ll continue to be in compliance with that statute,” Barber said.

The Escambia County School District reported 37 students and 12 staff members were out quarantining Tuesday.

A schools spokesman said it’s unclear if COVID absences were to the point of affecting school operations just yet.

Educators in both counties say they are committed to keeping children safe and providing them with a quality education.