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Hillsborough County Schools: Online for week 1, students can return in-person the following week

Posted at 1:25 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 07:32:01-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County Public School students will return to class through eLearning for the first week of school, while students can return in-person if they choose the following week.

The announcement follows a battle between the school district and the state over starting virtually and following the state's emergency order.


All students will begin school with eLearning on August 24. One week later on August 31, students will transition to brick-and-mortar for those parents who want that option.

Superintendent Addison Davis said the Department of Education made it clear that any plan outside of the executive order would result in a negative financial impact.

"Over $200 million that we could potentially lose in this organization. That would openly bankrupt this organization," said Davis. "As the leader, its something that I want to fight for this community, that’s a lot of money. And [when] we talk about money, the bulk of our money is linked to personnel. Being one of the largest employers in, let's just say in Florida with close to 25,000 employees, if we would have to take a significant impact and hit financially, that’s connected to employees.”

Davis drove to Tallahassee earlier this week to sit down with the Department of Education and discuss their position. The school district said Superintendent Davis presented two different phased-in models, but both were denied.

“I’m disappointed in the way that, in the fact that I couldn’t bring this community back somewhat of a compromise," said Davis. "You have half the community that wants to come to brick and mortar and I agree, we should probably provide that opportunity to our learners, and you’ve got half the community that wants to transition to eLearning. So being able to take the compromise between where the Department of Education is, related to the emergency order, and relate it to where the board aspired to be at the particular amendment, I was trying to hope to bring something in the middle that would be comparable."

The first week of virtual learning will be called "Smart Start Week," which the district says will allow learners to kick off the school year in the safest manner possible. Smart Start Week is not optional; Teachers will record daily attendance, provide expectations for the new school year and begin the instructional process.

Students will follow their initial Declaration of Intent learning preference. The district says they're continually reaching out to families who haven't responded, and those who made a choice but may want to make a change are asked to call their school.

The Superintendent recognized there would likely be shutdowns in particular classrooms, school wings, or common areas, but he explained how they handle closures will be done on a school by school basis.

“We’ll make an individual school determination," said Davis. "One thing we are not, we will not be closing down the organization at scale unless the Governor comes out and makes that clear.”

The school board voted last week to delay implementing the district's re-opening plan and start the first four weeks of classes online only after a lengthy presentation and discussion with Bay Area medical experts.

In a letter sent last week to the Superintendent and school board chair Melissa Snively, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says it gave him “grave concerns” when the district takes away the families’ abilities to choose the brick-and-mortar learning options.

Corcoran says making the classes online only goes against the proposal that Hillsborough County originally submitted to the state and the state had approved.