Pinellas School Board holds special meeting to discuss reopening plans

Coronavirus

PINELLAS CO., Fla. (WFLA) – Tuesday is a big day for school districts in Tampa Bay.

School boards across the area began to finalize plans to send students back to the classroom.

In Pinellas County, school board members discussed the latest COVID trends, transportation, instructional staff alternative assignments, the MOU, and the master schedule of teacher preparation.

One of the biggest topics on the agenda is how schools plan to implement a mask requirement. Board members say all teachers and all students over the age of 4-years-old have to wear a mask. They said there will be “mask breaks” where teachers and students don’t have to wear it if they’re actively eating/drinking, doing strenuous activity, or in a room alone.

“We have to lead with safety,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego in Tuesday’s meeting. He went on to say they don’t want to solve problems which then creates more problems down the road.

The Assistant Superintendent Kevin Hendrick said they are hoping to limit face to face schooling to 15 people (K-3rd grade), 18 people (grades 4-5), or 20 (grades 6-12).

Hendrick also said there will be an online parent assistance program that parents will be able to participate in to help with technology and educating their children this school year. The parent assistance program starts Aug. 17 and teachers will give similar training when students return to school.

Schools board members say they want to bring families some stability as they plan to send students back to school on Aug. 24.

“There’s a lot of rumor out there that we’re actually going to be talking about or moving to what Hillsborough is. Right now our board meeting does not have anything on it that has to do with the changing of what our plan is that was approved. Our workshop will be talking about what we’re going to expect and how it’s going to be implemented,” said Carol Cook, a chairperson for the Pinellas County School Board.

Across Tampa Bay, other districts are also working to finalize their back-to-school plans.

Last week, the Hillsborough County School District decided to start the first four weeks of school virtually, causing controversy with the Florida Department of Education.

The Polk County School Board is also meeting Tuesday to discuss several issues. Board members are expected to hear the latest updates on COVID-19 and plans to reopen schools. Putting 50,000 students back into physical classrooms is not a popular idea for some board members.

“I’m not going to vote to jam 50,000 kids and 5,000 adults or however many it would be at one time pm august 24th cause I know that’ll fail. It’ll kill in person schooling. It’ll probably kill some of our staff,” said Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend.

Hernando, Citrus and Manatee County school districts are also meeting on Tuesday to discuss reopening plans.

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