APOLLO BEACH, Fla. — Summer is over, and kids are back in the classroom across the Tampa Bay Area. Hillsborough County students transitioned back to school Wednesday while parents explained safety is still top of mind.
There’s no shortage of emotions walking into the first day of school.
“I’m the easy one,” said Tony Garcia, a parent. “Mom’s going to be the one that you’ve got to work through today.”
“I’m going to wait until I get in the car because I don’t want her to see me crying,” said mom Casandra Clark.
Some students started their first day at York Innovation Academy in Apollo Beach. It’s the district’s newest school opening to about 1,300 students.
The Williams family is one of many waving goodbye to summer and hello to teachers and new friends.
“We’re just prayerful that all the kids are protected and have a safe and happy school year and that they learn and they grow everything that they need,” said parent Tiffany Williams.
“This is like our Super Bowl,” said Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis.
As a new school year begins, Davis said they expanded 14 new AICE/Cambridge programs at their high schools, expanded dual language, and also offered a new Spanish immersion programs at their schools.
The first day also comes as the district deals with about 680 instructional vacancies. Davis explained what they’re doing to address the teaching shortage.
“We’ve deployed close to 300 certified staff members from the district level to push them into our classroom to create stability for the first 20 days of school,” said Davis. “I ask our parents to be patient with us as we look at staff allocations, look at enrollment, and have to particularly may move one teacher from one school to the next or one grade level to the next, but we’re going to figure it out and make certain we have stability along the way.”
A handful of parents Wednesday morning shared how safety and security are still on their minds as they send their students back to class.
“Always safety issues, but I see a lot of police around here, so I’m super, super happy,” said parent Elizabeth Arias.
Davis reiterated to parents safety is the greatest priority.
“A lot of organizational controls, single points of entries. We have cameras, we have perimeter fencing, internal fencing, all the right things to be able to make certain that our students feel comfortable from a psychological standpoint so they can interact intellectually,” said Davis.