Hillsborough Co. schools prepare for students return ahead of formal board decision

Hillsborough County

Tampa, FL (WFLA) – The Hillsborough County School District showed off what they say will be another effective tool in the arsenal to fight COVID-19 on Wednesday: Air filters.

The district upgraded its air filters on all campuses to a MERV 13 rating, which they said can help reduce the impacts of COVID-19 within schools.

“This is just another stance that we continue to take,” said Superintendent Addison Davis.

More than half of the schools will be converted to MERV 13 filters by Aug. 24. The rest will be installed by Oct. 1.

All of this preparation is ahead of a Thursday school board meeting where the board will make a final decision on whether students will head back to school or use distance learning for the first nine weeks.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association (FEA) is working its way through the courts in Miami-Dade County. At a status hearing Wednesday, a judge set two additional hearings. One will be Thursday and another Friday, pending the outcome of the Thursday hearing. Both will be held via Zoom.

The lawsuit filed is against Governor Ron DeSantis, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, the Florida Board of Education, the Florida Department of Education, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

According their website, the FEA is asking for three things:

  • “An order directing the governor, commissioner, and mayor from unnecessarily and unconstitutionally forcing millions of public-school students and employees to report to unsafe brick and mortar schools that should remain physically closed during the resurgence of COVID-19 in Florida.
  • An order requiring that, before the physical reopening of brick and mortar schools, each school must have adequate personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies for all employees and students; reduce class sizes to comply with physical distancing requirements; install sufficient hand-sanitizing stations; add plexiglass shields where necessary; increase staffing; increase school clinic capabilities; and take all necessary measures to protect students and staff and minimize COVID-19 transmission.
  • An order requiring defendants to develop and implement an online instruction plan aimed at all children and to make internet connectivity and computer devices available to all students, as many districts have already done, so that they can meaningfully engage in virtual instruction until it is safe to reopen physical school sites.”

The outcome of this lawsuit could impact what happens in Hillsborough County. Davis said despite that, he has to press ahead with preparations.

“You’ve got to prepare. Being able to prepare every single day, refining plans to educate individuals, identifying partners, being able to make sure we have a sufficient staff in order to implement the thorough plan that we have developed,” he said.

And that includes those highly rated air filters at the more than 250 school sites and more than 12,000 classrooms.

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