The Hillsborough County School Board has delayed the reopening of schools, as recommended by Superintendent Addison Davis.
In adopting Davis’ plan, the board also said it would reconvene in two weeks to look at the COVID-19 data, to see if the plan sticks, or if the board will change its plan.
The board took the action in a special meeting on July 23.
Under the approved plan, teachers and district staff will return to schools as planned, on July 31.
The board also approved a new student calendar and a new bell schedule, to ensure that students make up for lost time and have the required amount of time in their courses.
Under the approved calendar, the first day of school is Aug. 24, the first semester ends on Jan. 15 and the last day of school is May 28.
The board’s actions followed considerable public comment and discussion by board members.
Members of the public urged board members to consider the safety of students and staff, in adopting their back-to-school plan.
Board member Tamara Shamburger said, “this is not about parent choice.
“This is about the greater duty of the superintendent and this board, to ensure safety in this school district.
“Until we can guarantee student safety, there is no viable choice for brick-and-mortar,” Shamburger said.
But, board member Cindy Stuart said the district was obligated to get a plan in front of Tallahassee.
“Let’s talk about a two-week period, where we continue to watch what is happening,” she said.
“We may have to pivot one way or another,” she said.
Hillsborough County isn’t the only school district struggling with the challenges of reopening schools in the midst of a pandemic.
Pasco County Schools also has delayed the start of school until Aug. 24.
The Pasco School Board also approved an Aug. 17 start date for employees, also a two-week delay from the originally planned Aug. 3.
Delaying the start date will require the district to make up for lost time, Superintendent Kurt Browning said.
His staff has developed a plan that adds 18 to 20 instructional minutes to each school day to make up for the lost time, and also calls for foregoing early release days during the fall semester.
Don Peace, president of United School Employees of Pasco, called Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s directive “an overreach.
“You, as a board, should be the ones that determine the safest way to return to teaching and learning, but your authority was usurped by one man,” Peace said.
Corcoran’s directive is being challenged, Peace added.
“Yesterday, in a court in Miami, the Florida Education Association filed suit against his (Corcoran’s) order, labeling it ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ They further claimed that returning to brick-and-mortar now, with COVID numbers on the rise, would be unsafe for students and employees,” Peace said.
The union president also noted that a USEP survey of district employees found that “over 75% of those replying felt that the only safe way to return now is distance learning.”
Peace said USEP urging the Pasco County Schools to adopt a distance-learning model, until the rate of positive COVID-19 cases has been on the decline for 14 days.
Published July 29, 2020