HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Thousands of students in several school districts returned to the classroom for a new semester on Tuesday. Even before the first bell rang, parents shared their thoughts and concerns on sending their kids back to school during a surge in COVID-19 cases.
On a cold January morning, Tampa Bay area students marched to their first day back to class.
“Happy to have them back at school. I know he’s not happy but…,” said Angela Wright.
Wright dropped her son off at school Tuesday morning, preparing like many families for school during another COVID wave.
“Hopefully, they’re staying safe, washing their hands,” said Wright. “He’s vaccinated. We’re all vaccinated, so I’m hoping we all stay healthy.”
On Monday, Hillsborough County school leaders shared steps they’re taking to help stop the spread as students return from break, acknowledging that with certain state rules in place, there’s a limit to what they can and can’t do, for example with mask mandates.
“One thing as organizations, we cannot mandate vaccinations for our employees. We cannot implement masks for our students. It gives that parent a right,” said Addison Davis, the Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent. “As it relates to being able to transition from brick and mortar to all virtual, there’s no longer an emergency order in place that allows us to receive funding for that.”
The district says it will continue to encourage wearing masks indoors while reminding families if a student is positive, they will have to isolate for 10 days.
Tuesday morning, several parents shared with ABC Action News how they felt sending their kids back to school right now.
“I’m glad they’re getting back in school. Some stuff is getting back to normal and everything, so it’s good for them, for their education,” said Jose Mirabal.
Mark Andrews, an HCPS parent, shared precautions he’s talked with his daughter about for school.
“Making sure she’s wearing her mask on the regular. Even if her classmates aren’t, she should try to protect herself,” said Andrews. “Keep her hands clean as much as she can. She has her own sanitizer and stuff, so things that she’s old enough to know what to do, so I trust her.”
Some parents explained their kids have been taking precautions for so long during the pandemic that they know what they’re supposed to do, while they remain encouraged schools are doing the best they can.
“It’s a concern. I wouldn’t lie about that, but as I said, I try to tell her what to do to stay safe, and I’m sure the teachers and the staff are doing the same,” said Andrews.