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Pinellas County School Board gets update on reopening plan, adopts emergency mask rule

Posted at 6:01 AM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 02:46:27-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The Pinellas County School Board met on Tuesday, and school leaders gave updates to the district’s reopening plan and safety procedures.

School officials said in preparing class sizes, the goal is to reduce the number of students in classrooms for traditional face-to-face settings. School leaders said during their workshop numbers given were a target, rather than a hard cap.

  • K-3rd grade: 15 students or less
  • 4th-5th grade: 18 students or less
  • 6th-12th grade: 20 students or less

Each classroom will get a bottle of disinfectant and hand sanitizer. Leaders say they’ll be replaced as soon as a classroom runs out.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the district also looked at its process for reporting positive COVID-19 cases in schools. Each case involves the PCS COVID team, the Department of Health, contact tracing and deep cleaning classrooms.

The district says it's working with the Department of Health to develop a rapid testing process. This would mean symptomatic students or staff would get access to a priority testing lane at community sites, and testing labs would prioritize processing those tests.

During the board meeting Tuesday evening, the school board adopted an emergency rule regarding face coverings. While the district already had a mask mandate in place for students and staff, the rule lays out how to wear a mask, which masks are acceptable, and what happens if a student doesn't follow the rule.

At the end of the board's workshop in the afternoon, the board attorney advised on the emergency order in place, while board members touched on the re-opening situation in Hillsborough County and noted potential financial burdens of violating the order.

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Some teachers rallied outside ahead of the workshop Tuesday morning, hoping the board would move school online only for the safety of students and staff.

"I’m cautiously optimistic. I know that there have been board members who have said they would like to see online learning if it’s the safest route," said Pinellas County Schools teacher Sarah Pruitt. "Given the backlash that Hillsborough has received from the state, as I said, that kind of brings about the more cautious idea that, no one wants to have the state bear down on them, but at the same time, we want what’s best for the kids and for the staff.”