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Hillsborough County parents voice concerns over learning options for students

Posted at 4:32 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 16:48:08-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Parents in Hillsborough County have about a week to decide how their kids will go back to school on August 10. Hillsborough County Public Schools sent parents a Declaration of Intent, asking them to choose between three options.

The options are based on a traditional setting, meaning parents can choose between face-to-face instruction, eLearning or Hillsborough Virtual School. Last week, the Superintendent presented three models to the school board, but the district ultimately decided on Model A.

Parents have until Friday, July 17 to make their choice.

The district's FAQ section reads "any student without a recorded parent choice on file will automatically be assigned to the full-time, traditional classroom instruction option."

“I think the problem is we don’t have enough information to make an informed decision for our students and the rest of our families here,” said parent Kimberly Pullen.

Pullen started an online petition, which garnered nearly 1,500 signatures by Thursday afternoon. She's asking for more information from the district and for the district to hold a virtual forum for parents to ask questions.

“Tell us how really you are going to keep our children safe in option A,” said Pullen. “Are you going to be able to limit class sizes? Are you going to be able to change cafeteria setups, for example and things of that sort.”

Kelly Verra’s children also go to Hillsborough County Public Schools. She says there are a lot of questions including on safety protocols parents need answers to.

“I think if we knew what we had to look forward to, I think if we knew what was going to happen, is everyone going to be wearing masks?” said Verra. “There are so many parents with so many questions. I think if we had those opportunities to ask them and wrap our heads around this, I think we would all feel a lot better.”

A district spokesperson explained the selection will lock students in for the semester. They won’t be able to change midway through because of a difference in learning pace between options and staffing. The choices parents make will help the district figure out staffing models.

The Superintendent put out a video to explain eLearning. A district spokesperson also said they’ll be communicating with parents through July 10 to make sure they’re comfortable with their learning method and that their questions are answered.

“I absolutely understand and I empathize with the school board. They have very tough decisions to make and it is a very fluid situation,” said Pullen. “With that being said, I think they also need to give the parents and students that same fluidity and flexibility instead of holding us to a decision that we need to make at the beginning of July.”

Hillsborough County Public Schools has more information on its reopening page for parents, including a new FAQ section for parents on the selection process.