PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — As the debate rages on about how to open schools safely amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Pinellas County School Board opted to open up a portion of their Tuesday workshop to the public so parents and staff could see where the district is at with their plans.
As of Aug. 11, the district was preparing for a first day of school with the majority of students requesting in-person instructions. Here is the breakdown:
- Traditional 55.5 percent
- MyPCS Online 41.4 percent
- Pinellas Virtual School 3.1 percent
MyPCS Online is an interactive model with daily attendance and live instruction with a teacher online. Pinellas Virtual School is a long standing model that allows students flexibility to complete assignments and meet goals at their own pace.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego started by recognizing his partnership with county medical leaders and noted that wearing masks and social distancing are working in Pinellas County.
During the workshop, Pinellas administrators talked about the rules and protocols they're implementing for the 2020-2021 school year.
The demand for school buses has decreased by about half in the district. Administrators are working to re-route and balance bus capacities so there's only 1-2 students per seat. Siblings will be asked to share a seat.
Students will also load the bus by filing up the back first. When the exit, they'll load from the front first to decrease the amount of children passing each other.
The human resources department went over the results from educator surveys. Of the 292 teachers with underlying conditions, 140 had been placed in virtual positions. School leaders explained that principals and teachers are still working through placements and accommodating teacher preferences.
MyPCS Online will look a lot different than it did in the Spring. There will be more structure and teachers will take daily attendance. The online learning system, Canvas will allow instructions for parents. Progress points will be formulated.
The district is looking at having some teachers juggle an in-person class while also teaching students virtually. That means a teacher might be sitting in front of a laptop, sharing a screen to learners in-person and online.
Administrators played a video showing how students will be waiting in lines in the hallways and cafeterias with at least 6-feet of distance between them. There won't be many assemblies and fewer gatherings. Classes will be spread out and some even held outside.
The district is providing 5 washable, reusable masks to every student. They have to wear face coverings at all times with the exception of when they are eating and drinking. The district is still working through the specifics of accepted face coverings due to the changing guidelines from the CDC.
The district bought six hospital-grade machines that will quickly disinfect schools. They hope to buy more and use the 360-Clorox machines if someone tests positive. The district also urged students and staff to stay home if they feel sick.
What happens if someone tests positive?
Teacher must notify the principal if they test positive. The principal will report the case on the district's COVID-19 dashboard. The Department of Health will contact the teacher and provide contact tracing and make recommendations. The district is hoping the state will pass down more guidelines on how to handle positive cases in schools.
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