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AT A GLANCE: What Tampa Bay school districts are doing to safely get your kids back to school

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Posted at 5:15 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-11 05:03:58-04

The 2020-2021 school year is getting closer as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Florida. Along with it, are many Tampa Bay area parents and guardians worried about their children returning to school.

ABC Action News has compiled a list of Tampa Bay area school districts and what they are planning to do to safely get your kids back to school.

NOTE: The information below is subject to change. Please check back for the latest information.


CITRUS COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: Noon on July 20
  • Start Date: August 20
  • Masks: Masks are required following a July 28 school board meeting.
  • Learning Options: Citrus County is providing two learning options.
    • The On-Campus Education option is for students going back to the classroom in-person.
    • The Citrus Virtual School option is a flexible online option.
      • Students often work on the Virtual School option on non-traditional hours.
      • The school district will provide devices if needed.
  • Other Safety Precautions: Group activities will be avoided. Staff will clean frequently touched surfaces throughout the day. Schools will also be cleaned at the conclusion of each day. Hand sanitizer will be provided in school and on buses.
  • Notification of Infections: According to the district, if they find out that there is a COVID-19 case in the district, they will follow the guidance from local health officials concerning notifications, quarantines or recommendations for testing.

DESOTO COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: July 10
  • Start Date: August 10
  • Masks: Masks are highly encouraged, but not mandatory at school. Masks are mandatory on the bus. Masks will not be provided by the school.
  • Learning Options: DeSoto County is providing three learning options.
    • The Traditional Learning option is for students going back to the classroom in-person.
    • DeSoto Online is for students learning online.
      • Students will follow the standard school schedule, and attendance will be taken daily.
      • The district will provide unlimited internet and a Chromebook for students who need them.
    • The MyDistrict Virtual option is a flexible online option.
      • Students often work on the Virtual School option on non-traditional hours.
  • Other Safety Precautions: Expect symptom screenings for staff and students. Those with symptoms will not be allowed to attend. Enhanced cleaning measures will be taken in school and on buses. Hand sanitizer will be provided in school and on buses.

HARDEE COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: July 23
  • Start Date: August 12
  • Masks: Masks are required by students and staff in common areas, hallways, on buses, while arriving at school and during afternoon dismissal. In the classroom, face masks will be at the discretion of the individual teacher based on the activity and proper social distancing.
  • Learning Options: Hardee County is providing three learning options.
    • The Traditional option is for students going back to the classroom in-person.
    • The HardeE Innovative Learning Opportunity (HILO, In District Virtual Learning Program) option is an online option.
      • Students will be connected for daily virtual instruction/lessons with teachers during the regularly scheduled school day.
      • This option requires a 9-week minimum enrollment.
    • My District Virtual School (MDVS, Out of district virtual program) is another online option.
      • Online classes will be taught by out of district teachers.
      • A semester minimum or year-long enrollment is required.
  • Other Safety Precautions: Daily spot-check temperature checks will take place at each school. If a student has a temperature in excess of 100.4 they will be sent to the office and the school nurse will be contacted. Enhanced cleaning measures will be taken in school and on buses. Hand sanitizer will be provided in school buildings.

HERNANDO COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: Noon on July 27
  • Start Date: August 31
  • Masks: Masks are required, following a July 28 school board meeting.
  • Learning Options: Hernando County is providing three learning options.
    • The In-School Learning option is for students going back to the classroom in-person.
    • The Digital Home Learning option is for students wanting to remain connected to their schools through live, online lessons taught by teachers from their school.
      • Students will follow the standard school schedule.
      • Completion of 9 weeks is required before changing to another option.
    • The Hernando eSchool option is a flexible online option.
      • Students often work on the eSchool option on non-traditional hours.
      • The school district will not provide devices or internet.
  • Other Safety Precautions: There will not be temperature screenings at the school, but parents are encouraged to take their child’s temperature before sending them to school each day. Parents must keep students home if their temperature is above 100 degrees. Student seating is being modified to provide more distance between students. There are enhanced cleaning plans.
  • Notification of Infections: Once the district learns of a COVID-19 case in the district, they will work with the health department to do notifications to people who may have been in contact with the person infected. The Department of Health will give direction on possible school closure as well as intensive cleaning protocols as necessary. If there is a short-term, temporary school closure, the closure will be treated similar to school closures during hurricane season.

HIGHLANDS COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: July 10
  • Start Date: August 17
  • Masks: Masks are required by students and staff on buses and in hallways between classes.
  • Learning Options: Highlands County is providing three learning options.
    • The Face-To-Face Traditional learning option is for students going back to the classroom in-person.
    • Remote Online Learning is for students to learn online.
      • Students will follow the standard school schedule, and attendance will be taken daily. This option is only available for elementary and middle school students.
    • The Highlands Virtual School option is a flexible online option.
      • Students often work on the Virtual School option on non-traditional hours.
  • Other Safety Precautions: Before the start of each day, students will have their temperatures taken as they arrive at school or board the school bus. Parents are asked to stay at the bus stop until their child is cleared. Any child with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be allowed to enter the campus. Staff and visitors will also have temperature checks as they enter the campus. Those with symptoms will not be allowed to attend. Enhanced cleaning measures will be taken in school and on buses. Hand sanitizer will be provided in school and on buses.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: July 19
  • Start Date: August 24
  • Masks: All students and teachers in Hillsborough County will be required to wear masks in the new school year when social distancing isn't possible. Three reusable masks will be provided for each student and teacher.
  • Learning Options: Hillsborough County Public Schools is offering three options, in-person Learning, e-learning, and virtual school.
    • With in-person learning, children will attend their assigned school five days a week.
    • If a family chooses E-Learning, students will log on to a live feed of their assigned classroom at their assigned school.
      • Daily attendance is taken and they learn just as they would if they were attending class in-person.
    • Students who choose Hillsborough Virtual K-12 are not tied to a particular school.
      • They have full access to teachers for each subject, whom they can correspond with via email, phone, instant message or virtual classroom.
      • Virtual school students are not required to log in for certain hours.
  • Other Safety Precautions: Temperature checks for visitors and staff. Parents will be asked to pre-screen their kids for symptoms before sending them to school.
  • Notification of Infections: The district will follow a chain of reporting if they have a COVID-19 case, up to a new "COVID Commander" who will help drive contact tracing. The plan also calls to isolate students with symptoms.

MANATEE COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: July 22
  • Start Date: August 17
  • Masks: Face masks or shields are required in school and on buses. Cloth masks will be provided by the district to students and staff.
  • Learning Options: Manatee is providing three options for students.
    • 5-day On Campus option is for kids heading back to the school campus.
    • 5-day Hybrid option is where students mix on-campus learning with eLearning Manatee.
      • Students on the hybrid schedule will learn on-campus, in-person two days a week, and online three days a week.
    • 5-day eLearning Manatee option
      • The district will provide devices to those who need it.
  • Other Safety Precautions: There will be daily temperature screening of all employees and random students prior to them being admitted to a school. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 will have to leave. Students with symptoms will be held in an isolation room until a parent can pick them up.
  • Notification of Infections: Once the district learns of a COVID-19 case in the district, any students or staff members exposed to a confirmed case will be notified and will be subject to 14-day isolation from the date of the last known exposure. Exposure occurs when a positive case was in direct contact with a staff member or student for at least 15 minutes. The areas of the school where the exposure happened will be closed for cleaning and disinfecting for 2-5 days. If there is an outbreak of multiple positive cases in a school the district may close the entire school. If a temporary closure happens, students will be expected to attend on the eLearning Manatee platform.

PASCO COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: August 20

*Superintendent Browning announced a "pause" in the process of switching from one learning mode to the other – from August 20 to the 31.

  • Start Date: August 24
  • Masks: Students will be expected to wear masks or cloth face coverings on the school bus, but masks will not be required in classrooms.
  • Learning Options: Pasco County is providing three learning options.
    • The first is traditional with a return to the classroom with the standard school schedule and bell times.
    • The second is mySchool Online.
      • mySchool is connected to the student’s enrolled school.
      • This option requires that students follow the standard school schedule and bell times.
      • It features lessons and virtual interaction with teachers during each class period.
    • The third option is Virtual School, which is an online option with a flexible schedule.
      • Students work at their own pace and can do school-work during non-traditional hours.
  • Other Safety Precautions: Students will practice safe social distancing to the greatest extent possible. Schools will use signage and consistent communication to discourage the gathering of large groups of students. Cleaning will be increased. Hand sanitizer will be made available in classrooms and workplaces. Air conditioning filters will be changed more frequently.
  • Notification of Infections: The Pasco County Health Department will notify the district if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. The school will then notify parents, without identifying the student or staff member.

PINELLAS COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: July 27
  • Start Date: August 24
  • Masks: Masks are required for students, staff and visitors when social distancing isn't an option. Masks are also required for everyone on the school bus. All students and school district employees will get five free, reusable masks at the start of the school year.
  • Learning Options: Pinellas County is providing three options for students.
    • The first is Traditional Learning for kids heading back to school campus.
    • The second is MyPCS Online.
      • This option is online learning designed to follow the in-person school day structure, with teachers in your child’s assigned schools.
    • The third option is Pinellas Virtual School.
      • This is a more independent learning option with a flexible schedule.
      • The district will try to loan out devices and hotspots to those who need it.
  • Other Safety Precautions: Students and staff will participate in self-screening. Students who are not feeling well will be placed in a dedicated space until they can be cleared or picked up. There will be increased cleaning.
  • Notification of Infections: The district has a COVID-19 team who will work on contact tracing and notification if there is a confirmed case in the district. If a closure is necessary, due to a confirmed case, parents and the public will be notified.

POLK COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: September 11
  • Start Date: August 24
  • Masks: Face coverings are required on buses and in schools for students in second-grade through twelfth-grade. Face masks are recommended but not required for Pre-K, Kindergarten and first-grade.
  • Learning Options: Polk County is providing three options for students.
    • The first is Campus Learning for kids heading back to the school campus.
    • The second is Campus eSchool from your district school.
      • Remote learning will be live interactive learning with teachers in your child’s assigned schools.
      • This will be structured more like in-person learning.
    • The third option is Polk Virtual School.
      • This is a more independent learning option with a flexible schedule.
      • The district will try to provide devices to those who need it.
  • Other Safety Precautions: There will be increased cleaning. Students and staff will be trained to spot the symptoms of COVID-19. Hand sanitizer will be provided.
  • Notification of Infections: If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school, the district only says “Federal, state, and local health guidelines will be followed.“

SARASOTA COUNTY
*Reopening plans approved by Florida Department of Education*

  • Deadline to Decide: Parents have until Monday, July 20 to enroll students full-time in Sarasota Virtual School.
  • Start Date: August 31
  • Masks: Face masks or shields are required in school and on buses.
  • Learning Options: Sarasota County is providing three options for students.
    • The first is Traditional learning for kids heading back to the school campus.
    • The second is Remote Learning from your district school.
      • Remote learning will be live interactive learning with teachers in your child’s assigned schools.
      • This will be structured more like in-person learning.
    • The third option is Sarasota Virtual School.
      • This is a more independent learning option with a flexible schedule.
      • The district will try to provide devices to those who need it.
  • Notification of Infections: Once the district learns of a COVID-19 case in the district, they will work with the health department to decide on who needs to be notified and whether cleanings or closures are needed.

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