PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Tampa Bay area school districts are making changes to delay the start of school as COVID-19 cases remain high.
Citrus County leaders voted Wednesday to move back the start of school until Thursday, August 20. Pasco County voted this week to shift the start of school back to Monday, August 24.
Hillsborough, Manatee and Hardee County School District leaders plan to meet Thursday to talk about delaying the start of school.
In Pinellas County, a decision could be made next Tuesday to shift the start back to August 24.
“We’re going to take the time we need and do it right,” Michael Grego, the superintendent of Pinellas County Schools explained. “Let’s let the numbers and the science kind of help dictate our decisions.”
Grego says in Pinellas County the decision to potentially push back school is related to the high number of COVID-19 cases and giving teachers and staff more time to prepare for a blended learning environment with some students enrolled in MyPCS, others enrolled in Pinellas Virtual School and the rest attending traditional classroom sessions.
But will it help?
Several teachers tell ABC Action News they don’t think delaying school by two weeks will make much of a difference— if any at all— in keeping kids safe.
“Schools are dense. Even if some students are learning virtually and the density won’t be as much, we’re still talking about hundreds of people in one location sharing air and then they’re going to go home,” high school science teacher Dr. Christy Foust explained. She is part of a group of teachers rallying to keep classes online until we see a two-week decline.
Local districts say their hands are tied in delaying the reopening much further because of an emergency order from Florida’s Department of Education mandating that schools open 5 days a week and specifically says “upon reopening in August.”
If cases spike too high, district leaders say switching to a fully online option is available.
“There is no one option. We’re planning on things we really don’t have control over and letting the science lead our decisions,” Grego said.
Brittany Medairies of Pinellas County says her 7-year-old daughter will return to the classroom whenever schools reopen. She says she trusts that education leaders will do what’s right to keep her daughter safe.
“I feel like as long as we’re doing the same social distancing we’re doing outside of school, it should be okay,” Medairies added.