Hillsborough’s school superintendent gives update on district’s COVID-19 response

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis gave an update on the district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic at a Tampa City Council meeting on Thursday.

Davis made a 15-minute presentation about enrollment numbers and what the district is doing to limit the spread of the virus.

Davis said fewer students enrolled in school than expected. Projected numbers were 228,000, but only 215,000 returned to class. Of the missing students, 3,000 had transitioned to charter schools, 3,000 are being homeschooled, and 7,000 are unaccounted for. The district is trying to figure out where those students may have gone.

Davis said 120,000 students chose to return for in-person learning, while 96,000 elected to learn from home.

Davis also talked about what the school is doing to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying face coverings are required, classrooms have been modified for social distancing and each school has one-way hallways.

Davis said the district has taken a serious stance on making sure they have a sufficient amount of PPE for students and employees, and has handed out 1.2 million masks, 500,000 gloves, and 42,000 hand sanitizers.

The district built an online dashboard to help parents track school-related coronavirus cases. Dais said the district is seeing new cases almost every day and reminded parents to have students stay home if they are experiencing symptoms.

“If you have little ones that are here in school, we have modified our classrooms to make sure we have social distancing wherever possible,” Davis said. “We are complying to every protocol and every step we can take to mitigate COVID -19.”

Davis also talked about Canvas, the new virtual learning platform that replaced Edsby. Davis said the new system allows teachers to upload lessons and have better communication with parents, and better identify where students are at academically.

The district has given over 40,000 laptops to students to help them learn remotely, Davis said, and has partnered with a number of community providers to address the digital divide and make sure remote learners have WiFi ability and PPE.

The district has also partnered with Tampa General Hospital and USF Health to review its reopening and “return to athletics” plans.

Athletic events can take place at 25% capacity. There is a strict limit of four tickets for each game per student, and their four guests will sit in a pod together. Parking and concessions are cashless.

Davis said the district is leveraging a number of grants to help students, and that addressing the current mental health crisis was a top priority.

“Our overall theme and goal is to make sure that we have quality education on every one of our schools,” Davis said. “As you know, coming into the organizations, we were ranked 40th in the state out of 67 counties academically, and we have got to have a centralized focus of how we’re going to continue to provide grade-level expectations and grade-level content to our children every single day to push their cognitive demands and allow them to compete not only in the four walls of our classroom, but also throughout the community and the nation.”

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