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Hillsborough County Public Schools asks state to withhold school grades due to COVID-19 absences

Supt. Addison Davis sent a letter to the DOE
Posted at 8:19 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 23:10:50-05

TAMPA, FLA. — Hillsborough County school officials said students and teachers are missing too many school days due to COVID-19.

Superintendent Addison Davis sent a letter to the Florida Department of Education detailing the challenges of teaching and learning during the pandemic.

He wrote in the letter, "After reviewing student attendance data, we are discouraged that the COVID variant spikes have resulted in more than a 10% increase of students with ten days or more missed days of instruction compared to the 2020-2021 school year."

Superintendent Davis is asking the state for leniency because of COVID-19 absences.

"At this time, we are asking the Florida Department of Education to hold districts and individual schools harmless by allowing schools to opt-in "A to F" grades for the 2021-2022 academic year," said Superintendent Davis in the letter to Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

School officials said students are struggling to prepare for state tests that will determine school grades.

"As you know the accountability system allows the department of education to hold school districts accountable related to giving them an A for being the best, all the way to an F for being a school that’s identified as underperforming and what we’re asking for and what we asked for from Hillsborough County is for the department to go back and take the same track they took last year," said Superintendent Davis.

Schools could opt-in for grades in 2021. No grades were given in 2020.

Rob Kriete, the President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, agreed with the letter sent to state officials. He believes school grades do not reflect the hard work of teachers and students.

"It is the most challenging two years that education has ever seen for public education," said Kriete.

"The teachers, the students out there, they’re challenged because of the absences so it creates gaps in their learning, gaps in the teacher's ability to plan and effectively teach," he added.

The letter also asked state officials to support an increase in the minimum teacher salary for full-time public classroom teachers and also increase funding for veteran teachers.