HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — School district leaders are now preparing for a new influx of in-person students in January after many remote learners are expected to return to brick-and-mortar schools in Hillsborough County.
At their board meeting on December 15, school board members and Superintendent Addison Davis are expected to discuss the Spring 2021 Education Plan, which talks about the projected increase.
Administrators are focusing on what they can do to keep both staff and students safe as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb.
According to the report, when the 2020-2021 school year began, about half of all Hillsborough County students returned to brick-and-mortar classrooms. Over the past two quarters, that number rose to 65 percent of all students.
District leaders expect that number to climb even higher this January.
In the meantime, administrators are working to educate the community about the importance of wearing a mask and staying away from large crowds. They are also working on a few specific measures in schools to reduce exposure.
"Continue to modify classrooms," Davis said. "Individualize ways of how we engage and accept children. How we have walkways within our schools; how we interact in our media centers."
The school board is also monitoring the rollout of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says it will most likely not be available to the general public until February at the earliest.
Davis is now asking that state leaders consider teachers a big priority for vaccination.
"They put themselves in front of so many children every single day, it should be in consideration," Davis said.
District leaders are also considering how Hillsborough County Public Schools could play a pivotal role in distributing the vaccine once it is more readily available to the general public.
School Board Chair Lynn Gray said school nurses are already trained in administering vaccinations.
"We already act as an emergency center," Gray said at a news conference in early December. "Our nurses do all kinds of testing and flu shots and everything else. So that's something for us to explore."