As Hillsborough County Schools gears up for a new school year, district officials need guidance from parents to help them plan.
Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis has laid out three potential models the school district could follow in the fall, depending on what’s happening with COVID-19.
Here is a synopsis:
Model A has three options:
- Students can return to school for traditional, face-to-face instruction.
- Students can learn from home, using eLearning, an improved version of the online instruction they received last school year.
- Students can enroll in Hillsborough Virtual School. These courses are designed to require students to meet certain requirements, but they have flexibility in scheduling their learning.
- Students can spend 40% of their time in face-to-face instruction, and 60% of their time in eLearning.
- Students can do eLearning only.
- Students can do Hillsborough Virtual School.
- Students can do eLearning or Hillsborough Virtual School. Campuses are closed.
At a June 23 workshop with the Hillsborough County School Board, Davis emphasized, “the plan has to be, and should be, very fluid along the way.”
The Model A version envisions the state operating at Phase III of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan, which allows buildings to operate at up to 100% of capacity.
The district understands that some parents and some staff may decide to not return to school, so the eLearning and Hillsborough Virtual School allow other options, Davis said.
If parents pursue one of the online options, fewer students would be on campus, making it easier for the district to achieve social distancing, the superintendent explained.
The district’s hybrid model provides a way to reduce the number of students who are on a campus at the same time. That means fewer students simultaneously riding buses, eating in the lunchroom, heading to the library or using other heavily trafficked areas on campus.
Another advantage of the hybrid model is that it gives students a chance to have face-to-face instruction for four out of 10 days of learning.
“There’s no substitute for a high-quality teacher in front of students,” Davis said.
The district is now reaching out to parents through an online survey, asking parents to identify what option they prefer for their students.
The district needs information about specific students, so it can plan properly, Davis said.
He hopes to have that information by July 10.
Regardless of the district’s final plans, the district intends to provide masks for its employees and to provide three, and possibly as many as eight, reusable masks per student, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Regardless of the approach the district uses, it will greatly limit assemblies, pep rallies and field trips and will have stringent restrictions involving visitors on campuses.
It also will have protocols involving sanitation, personal hygiene and its response when a staff member or student is suspected of being positive for COVID-19.
School board member Steve Cona III said he’s a fan of Model A.
“I appreciate the creativity of Model B,” he said, but he added, “from a parent’s standpoint, I think it’s a logistical nightmare.”
He also thinks the district needs a defined criteria for what eLearning looks like. “We need to ensure that we have proper procedures and standards across the district.”
Davis assured board members that in the coming year, “eLearning will be significantly improved” compared to the online instruction students received at the end of last school year.
Cona also noted that the district needs to ensure that its standards for cleanliness are uniform across the district, which, he said, was not the case even before COVID-19.
School board member Karen Perez noted there are students who reside in multi-generational households, and she voiced concerns that asymptomatic students could infect their grandparents.
School board member Stacy Hahn said she’s happy there are options for parents. But, she voiced concerns about a digital divide. She called for learning opportunities to help families that are struggling with the use of technology.
Published July 1, 2020
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