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Hillsborough County schools won't require masks, reopening plans show

Would cost $9 million a month to give kids masks
Posted at 4:15 AM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 07:35:57-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County Public School leaders unveiled the district's proposed reopening plans as students prepare to return to school in August.

Superintendent Addison Davis presented three models for the school board to consider and discuss for re-opening, each dependent on the perceived risk of spreading COVID-19. Model A would be a traditional, face-to-face setting, Model B would be a blend of face-to-face and e-Learning, while Model C would revert strictly to e-Learning if there is a substantial spread risk and schools shutdown.

Parents can choose to opt their child instead into Hillsborough Virtual School and e-Learning under any of these models.

"August 10 is just around the corner, so we just want to make certain that we build plans that are built to support the safety of our children and at the same time the safety of our employees," said Davis.

Masks will be strongly recommended where social distancing guidelines cannot be accommodated, but proposals note they will not be mandatory unless a state or local executive order is in effect. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided for staff, and three reusable masks will be provided for students.

"If we require masks for our students, are we chasing that every single day? They may lose them, they may not have them, they may not elect to wear them. And we don’t want to get to a part where we’re disciplining children for a choice them and their family have made," said Davis. "Right now, it’s going to be a complete recommendation to our employees and recommendation to our students as well.”

The Superintendent explained FEMA will send close to 400,000 masks for employees, and they've also asked FEMA for more than one million masks for students, which would give students an additional five masks. Hillsborough County Public Schools said it would cost the district $9 million per month to provide masks and gloves to every student.


On buses, proposals say seating will be cut back and spacing increased if needed and when possible. Bus drivers will also get disinfecting wipes to clean seats and hand rails. Models call for self-check screenings at home, but one goes further to include temperature checks on-site for staff.

If there's a suspected COVID-19 case at a school, that person will be taken out of the classroom and into an isolated space. A rapid response team may be deployed for cleaning, but the Superintendent says they won't close all schools if they have a case.

"We will take each case by case. We’ll look at each individual situation by case by case basis, and we’ll determine what action needs to take place," said Davis. "We will never shut down the school district again at scale, unless is provided in direction from the Governor’s office and the Florida Department of Education.”

The plans propose more hand sanitizing stations at school entrances and common areas, as well as sanitation wipes in every classroom.


In the meantime, teachers will be expected to have a plan in place for what will happen if their respective school has to close down due to a positive COVID-19 test result. The district has not laid out any definitive plans as of yet.

Hillsborough County Public Schools recently hired a new virtual learning director.

The School Board put out a reopening survey for parents in an effort to create their reopening plan for later this summer. You can view the results here.

The district will launch another parent survey by July 1, asking parents to pick an option under the models for their kids. The district would like that information back by July 10.