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Hillsborough County families concerned over childcare, technology as schools go online only for four weeks

Posted at 5:40 PM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 17:50:10-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The decision to move Hillsborough County Schools online only for the first four weeks of the semester is leaving some parents scrambling to adjust.

Jennifer Salas planned to send her daughter to kindergarten face-to-face this fall. Salas works 10 hour days, and now she’s trying to come up with a solution.

“She’s so young, I have to be on top of her,” said Salas. “It’s not like she’s an old child, where I can say, 'OK, go with your teacher. Go do what you have to do, I’m going to be in my room working.' It’s just not possible to be on her 24/7.”

The district says eLearning will look different than it did in the spring. Students will go to class online during regular school hours and follow a standard schedule.

Salas feels for other working parents who have no one to turn to. She says parents shouldn’t be forced to choose between their paying job and helping teach their kids.

“I’m blessed to have my mom be able to help me, but if I didn’t have my mom, I’d be up without a paddle. I’d just have no solution,” said Salas.

A district spokesperson said they realize the tough situation everyone is in right now and asks families to keep lines of communication open with teachers so they know their situation at home.

Hillsborough County Council PTA president Frank Reyes asks the district to be transparent and to keep putting out information in the weeks ahead.

“Let’s get these questions answered, and if you have to work every day doing it, you have to work every day doing it because, at the end of the day, this is their job is to make sure we have the information both safety wise and education-wise for our students,” said Reyes. “Videos, emails, texts, phone calls. Whatever it takes, make sure the communication is there for our parents.”

Board members raised the concern during their meeting Thursday on device availability and connectivity for students. Board member Cindy Stuart said Hillsborough is not a one-to-one district and not all families have access. When the pandemic moved schools online in the spring, the district says it gave out 40,000 devices and those community partners handed out hotspots.

The district explained they’re still planning to help as many kids as possible get access to devices and hotspots, while also saying they know there’s a need for technology and a digital divide that they’re working to address.

“Please know that here at the district level, we’re working hard and diligently to get answers to every one of your questions and concerns that you may have related to our transition to eLearning,” Superintendent Addison Davis said in a video released on social media Friday. “We’re going to be working all over the weekend and the beginning of next week and by mid-week, we’ll send out all the information that we can to make certain you feel comfortable about where we are.”