ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — School is weeks away, but many districts in our area are choosing to push back their start dates by a couple of weeks because of rising COVID-19 infections.
It's a move that Gov. Ron DeSantis says he supports: "If a school district needs to delay the school year for a few weeks, so everything will be in good shape, have at it."
The delay will help schools arrange schedules and divide students and teachers among online learning and in-person instruction. However, the governor also echoed his support for pursuing in-person education.
"The choice before us is whether we face our challenges with determination and resolve, guided by evidence, or whether we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear," said DeSantis in support of sending students back to schools.
"I believe we owe every Florida parent a choice to send your child back to school for in-person instruction or to opt to maintain distance learning."
Now, families across the Tampa Bay area are faced with that tough decision.
With the Pinellas County school deadline to decide fewer than five days away, district leaders held a town hall to answer questions.
When asked how social distancing will be maintained at the middle school and high school level, Area 3 Superintendent Robert Poth explained that much of the burden will be on teachers.
"The adults will highly encourage and break students up that are congregating," Poth said. He went on to explain that there will be organization on a school-wide basis to minimize interaction, "Signage, walkways going one direction. Hallways that are going one direction to keep the flow going."
Some teachers are concerned about returning to the classroom.
"You know, and I think at the end of the day, when it comes down is, we're scared. You know, we're scared. We don't want to bury a student. We (don't) want to bury a colleague," Pasco County teacher Jeremy Blythe said at a protest. "And we and most importantly, we really don't want, you know, us or our student to be bringing this stuff home and spreading it throughout the community.
"I mean, this can really, things will balloon."
But teachers in Pinellas County will hopefully have a choice. Teachers also have to submit their preferred form of instruction by July 27. It remains to be seen if all teacher preferences will be honored.
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