TAMPA, Fla. — The Hillsborough County School Board on Thursday unanimously voted to delay the start of the school year by two weeks until Aug. 24. And, the board approved the district's reopening plan, which will now be submitted to the state.
The vote happened during a special meeting following Superintendent Addison Davis' recommendation to postpone classes amid Florida's struggles to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The last day of school will remain the same: May 28.
Prior to the vote, the board heard from community members who expressed support and concern around re-opening schools.
Multiple educators stood up to express fear and concerns, "I was a product of Hillsborough County Public Schools and now I'm an educator in Hillsborough County Public Schools. Very proud. This is not a proud moment as I stand here," said Angie Snow, a teacher at Hillsborough County Schools.
She was also one of the many advocates pushing for "first nine online," a request to make the first nine weeks of school online for all students, before potentially reopening the schools.
“I asked you to reevaluate, first nine online, it is what we need to be looking at. So we're not rushing into a plan," Snow said. "As a parent, I can feel confident. As a teacher, I can feel confident. And I can know I'm not going to be reading about my own colleagues in the obituary papers. Please make the smart healthy choice for Hillsborough County, staff teachers”
Hillsborough's reopening plan includes reconfiguring classrooms and buses, along with changing the cafeteria schedule to promote social distancing. The district plans to rely on a new collaboration with Tampa General Hospital and USF Health to fine-tune strategies to protect students and staff.
Parents were asked to select what type of education experience they wanted for their kids -- whether it be in-person instruction or some variation on remote learning. They could choose between five-day-a-week traditional at-school learning, E-learning and virtual school. The virtual school experience is where the curriculum is supplied, but parents would provide most of the instruction.
Davis previously announced the school athletics start date would be postponed two weeks until Aug. 10. But on Thursday night the Florida High School Athletics Association voted to postpone fall sports until Aug. 24.
At this time, student-athletes will keep conditioning on school campuses, although there will be heightened safety efforts. Those include capping the number of people in groups to 40 at one time, encouraging social distancing, and prohibiting the use of locker rooms, community water jugs and towels.
“I recognize how crucial athletics and extracurricular activities are to not only student- athletes, but the school communities overall. While resuming these activities is an important step toward normalcy on our campuses, our district will do so in a guarded manner as we navigate the continuing impact this pandemic has on our local community. This extra time will also allow school administrators to work with athletic directors to build a timeline that allows for a start date of August 10th,” Davis wrote in an earlier statement.
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