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Tampa Bay schools reopening: Here’s the plan for your child’s district

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Aug. 5 update: Most districts in Tampa Bay have now voted on and finalized their reopening plans. You can find the latest here in our updated back to school story.


TAMPA (WFLA) – With coronavirus cases increasing at a rapid pace, you might be wondering if and how classes will resume in the fall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for reopening K-12 schools and child care programs, encouraging social distancing, hand-washing, daily health checks and disinfecting and sanitizing among other measures.

President Donald Trump has tweeted multiple times that schools “must” reopen in the fall, and called the CDC’s guidelines too “tough” and “expensive.”

Schools are still waiting on further guidance. The CDC was supposed to release more reference documents by the end of the week, but a spokesperson said it likely won’t be available by the end of month because there isn’t “a clear picture at this point.”

Governor Ron DeSantis recently told the Florida Board of Education he was confident schools in the state could reopen safely.

“I know they are working hard for ways to have a safe environment. I am confident it can be done. I have seen it done,” he said.

News Channel 8 has reached out to Tampa Bay school districts to get their plans for reopening during the pandemic. Here’s what we know.

Hillsborough County

Pinellas County

Pasco County

Polk County

  • Polk County Public Schools Board announced three new learning options for the upcoming school year:
    • Campus Learning: Students return to campus and interact in person with teachers and classmates. Various health and safety protocols will be put into place. Students will receive standards-based instruction from a certified teacher. There will be structured class times. Transportation and meals will be provided.
    • Campus eSchool : Students will remain enrolled in their zoned, choice, or magnet school of acceptance, but they must participate in online learning. Students will be expected to log in at a certain time, and there will be specified times for the various subjects, such as math, science and language arts. Parents serve as learning coaches and monitor students on completing their assignments. Parents are asked to make a quarterly commitment to eSchool, if they determine this is the learning format that is best for them and their child. 
    • Polk Virtual School: Students will enroll in PCPS’ longstanding virtual school program with online lessons taught by PCPS teachers. Students work at their own pace and can set their own schedule. Time management and self-motivation are essential. Parents serve as learning coaches and monitor students on completing their assignments. For planning purposes, we are asking that families who select Polk Virtual School to make a semester-long commitment.
    • To read more about the three learning options this year, click here.
  • School is scheduled to reopen Aug. 24, two weeks after the original start date.

Manatee County

  • Parents will be given three options to choose for schooling this fall:
    • A five-day, on-campus instructional plan for parents who want students to return to school full-time.
    • A hybrid schedule where students mix on-campus learning with eLearning Manatee.
    • An option for parents who want their students to continue full-time eLearning.
  • Parents have to contact their schools by the end of the day on July 22 to let them know what plan they want their students to be in.
  • Face masks/shields are required on school buses, however, there is no mask mandate as of now in classrooms
  • In July 14’s meeting, the school district decided to push the school start date back to Aug. 17 it was previously Aug. 10

Sarasota County

  • The only options for parents are full time learning or full time remote learning.
  • Masks will be mandatory for students and staff
  • The school board voted on July 14 to push the school start date back from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31.

Citrus County

  • Citrus County unanimously voted on July 22 to push the school start date back from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20.
  • The school board also decided on July 22 to delay the start date for fall sports until Aug. 24.

Highlands County

  • The school board of Highland County approved on July 28 to move the first day of school for Highlands County to Aug. 17
  • Teachers will now return Aug. 5
  • Face coverings will be worn by all students and stuff while on the school bus and in hallways during class changes for middle school and high school students
  • If students do not have a face covering, masks will be provided to them.

Hernando County

  • The start date for Hernando County Schools has been pushed back until Aug. 31.
  • Masks will be required for all students, staff and visitors on school district property, including school transportation.
  • Students will be provided two cloth face coverings and emergency disposal masks will be on hand for emergencies, or if a student forgets to bring their mask for the day.

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