ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – In the Tampa Bay area, districts are scrambling to put together a plan after a state order to reopen schools five days a week.
Pinellas County Schools released a draft of its reopening plan for the new school year on Thursday evening. It says when on campus masks must be worn by all students and staff but if you read the fine print, that’s not completely true.
8 On Your side’s Pinellas County Bureau reporter Christine McLarty spoke with a teacher worried about the plan.
“There’s just some language in there that raises some questions,” said a teacher at 74th Street Elementary in St.Pete, Michelle Gibson.
Gibson said the 37-page draft reopening plan is contradictory. On page 5 it reads in bold lettering “mask/face coverings must be worn by all students”. But in fine print on page 14, it says pre-K and Kindergarten students may wear masks/face coverings in the classroom based on family preference.
“I don’t want to get sick. You could get COVID if you’re 4 or if you’re 45,” said Gibson.
Gibson thinks masks should be mandatory for all her students and is also worried about her son Kal-el in 8th grade.
“I want him to be healthy too. If I get sick I spread it to him and he spreads it to his classmates at school, it’s not to be good, it’s not going to end well,” said Gibson.
Kal-el is also worried about his mom going back into the school.
“If my mom goes back I want her to be safe. If we have to wear masks, all the older kids, I think all the kids should wear masks,” said Kal-el.
8 On Your Side asked school district leaders why the masks aren’t mandatory for younger students and were told no one would be available to speak with us on camera until the school board meeting Tuesday, but that their decision is based on the younger students’ smaller class sizes and medical data of what’s achievable for their student’s age range.
The district says they will provide masks and encouraging all students to wear them. Kids can wear their own, as long as they’re appropriate.
Gibson’s mask says “14 days no new cases”. She told us she thinks no one should go back until the county is clear of new cases for two weeks.
“To come back to school safely for students, teachers, parents, really everybody,” said Gibson.
The new plan is scheduled to be presented at the school board meeting Tuesday, July 14. Teachers said they’re already planning to rally outside that meeting to make their voices heard.
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