PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County students and teachers wrapped up their first week back in the classroom on Friday. District leaders say overall the year is off to a good start despite several challenges from COVID-19.
This week, seven students and seven employees tested positive for COVID-19, which lead to nearly two dozen classrooms having to quarantine across Pinellas County.
Many educators are also working simultaneously and are teaching kids both in the classroom and online.
Larry Browett, a retired teacher and parent, says it’s been a strenuous five days for the countless teachers he’s spoken with this week.
“In the words of one teacher this morning this is the worst opening week they've ever had and they’ve been teaching for 29 years,” he elaborated.
Kevin Hendrick, the Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services, says he is proud of the work teachers have put in but acknowledged that the district is still working out the kinks.
“It is a challenge. We all recognize that so for our families where the first week hasn’t been as perfect as you want, next week will be better and the week after that better and better,” he explained.
District leaders say starting Monday, they will allow parents to work alongside their child’s principal if they want to transfer their student back to the classroom or switch over to the online platform.
Those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis based on the amount of space available.
Browett worries that teachers, including his wife, are overworked and stressed as they manage a large number of students.
“The teachers are just beside themselves. The classrooms are already full. The school board cannot bring all the kids from the My PCS program back into the classroom. They don’t have the teachers. They don’t have the classroom space,” he said, with concern.
“Where there are hiccups and there are problems, we’ll fix them,” Hendrick elaborated.
Browett hopes the district will take a closer look at the amount of PPE and cleaning supplies in schools and try to minimize the number of teachers working simultaneously with large numbers of students.
The school district is asking parents, students and teachers to be patient as they try their best to prioritize learning and keep everyone safe during the pandemic.
“I can tell you that things are getting better every day,” Hendrick told ABC Action News.