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Tampa family supports virtual start to school year as Gov. DeSantis pushes for parents to have options

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Annie Everett’s son with cystic fibrosis had been looking forward to in-person classes for the start of middle school after the Hillsborough County Public Schools district made mask-wearing mandatory.

“It’s not that I want to keep my kid home,” she told 8 On Your Side. “Trust me, I want him to go back to school but i want him to be safe and healthy.”

But since her son Gareth saw the viral photo of the crowded high school hallway in Georgia he’s changed his mind.

“I would say it would be better to do e-learning than go back to school,” he said.

A Hillsborough Schools spokeswoman tells 8 On Your Side the state’s executive order allows districts to keep brick and mortar schools closed per the advice of health department officials.

She said the school board made an informed decision to approve four weeks of online learning only because “not one medical professional could recommend opening today. The state’s order goes on to say the day-to-day decision to open or close a school always rests locally.”

“I just think Hillsborough County School Board is doing the right thing and they just need to buckle down we’ll get through this,” Everett said.

While in Riverview Monday, Gov. DeSantis argued Hillsborough schools need to offer parents options, like the state’s other 66 school districts.

“At the same time, some of this stuff is just not debatable anymore,” the governor said.

In a scathing letter from Friday, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran demanded the district stick with its original plan that included reopening schools.

“We’ve given them that flexibility and they can absolutely make whatever decision they want,” he said Monday during the education roundtable.

8 On Your Side did not get a straight answer about whether the state might cut funding.

As a taxpayer, that just would not sit well with Everett.

“Then they’re taking away are own money we’re putting in the school system,” she said. “That makes no sense at all.”

Hillsborough County only added 145 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and the positivity rate was less than 7 percent.

But Tampa Bay’s largest school district is sticking with advice from medical experts that it’s too soon to reopen schools in two weeks.

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