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Hillsborough Co. school board members worried about health for staff as return to classes nears

Coronavirus

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As the Hillsborough County School board waits to vote on a decision to bring students back to the classroom or to provide an e-learning system, new information is coming out about how the coronavirus is impacting the school district.

More than 200 employees have tested positive for the virus, during the summer when schools are mostly empty.

At least one percent of classroom teachers have let their union know they will quit or retire before returning to class with 255 school district employees asking for a leave of absence.

A spokesperson for the school district that employees can ask for a leave of absence for many reasons and it’s not clear if any of these requests are related to the pandemic, however, school board member Tamara Shamburger is concerned.

“Bases on the many messages I’ve received, email messages, messages on social media, phone calls to the board office, there is a real concern for our custodial staff, bus drivers, teachers, and everyone involved in learning about returning to the classroom,” said Shamburger.

She’s concerned that many of the employees who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are members of the janitorial staff.

“That’s going to be a problem. Who’s going to do the cleaning, are we expecting our teachers to do it? We can’t put another thing on their plate,” said Shamburger.

Shamburger believes schools will be forced to shut down again if they reopen before the virus is under control.

“I’m just someone with good old common sense and we know that if these schools open, we are going to be be the epicenter of infections in this community and we are going to be closing right back down,” said Shamburger.

Karen Perez also serves on the Hillsborough County School board and believes the first nine weeks of school should be e-learning only until safety plans can fully be put into place.

“When a student is sick, how they are going to, you know, what is the protocol, that they are going to follow. If a teacher is sick, what is the protocol that’s going to be followed,” said Perez.

She is hopeful that at the next board meeting other members will support the e-learning plan.

“Nine weeks, I know seems like a lifetime in many homes and for many students and for many parents. When you’re talking about a life, eight weeks compared to a death, is a very short period of time.” said Perez.

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