HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — As COVID-19 numbers surge in Hillsborough County, some parents are concerned about their children going back to school.
State law now prevents school systems from mandating masks, leaving that choice up to parents like Brian Franchio.
“So we were kind of worried, record numbers are here in Tampa so with the Governor’s removal of the mandatory masks, we were kind of concerned,” Franchio said.
Despite the lack of a mask mandate, Franchio is asking his son to wear a mask at school.
“We taught our son to wear the mask and just keep it on all day,” Franchio said.
Katey Kale is also worried about having her daughter back in school.
“I think that the numbers are soaring right now, and the cases are high,” Kale said. “The school had quite a few students test positive over the break, so we sent my daughter back with a mask on today. She is vaccinated, but just keeping her safe.”
Hillsborough County Public Schools says 928 educational staff called out sick to work on Tuesday, but the overall number of employees out of work is actually smaller than anticipated.
HIPAA rules prevent the school system from finding out if all 900 teachers are out due to COVID-19, but the school system says at the height of the delta variant about twice as many employees were out sick
“This week we have 2,500 employees who have called out sick so far, in the past we’ve had 5,000 during the delta variant, so it’s been worse, we’ve dealt with this before,” said Erin Maloney with the Hillsborough County School System.
Maloney says overall, the return to school has gone better than expected.
“We are really encouraged that our students and teachers are taking the right safety protocols to ensure that we have a really safe welcoming back to school,” Maloney said.
The school district says it’s prepared to have employees from the district level fill teaching vacancies if they have to in order to provide an education for students.