Hillsborough County parents, school officials preparing for upcoming school year

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County parents have just through the end of the night Sunday to decided if they want to send their child(ren) back to the classroom this fall or to keep them at home for distance learning.

Sunday is the second time the Declaration of Intent response deadline has been pushed back, all of this coming as the superintendent is recommending that schools start two weeks later than originally planned.

On Wednesday, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis asked the school board to delay the start of school from August 10 to August 24, saying the extra two weeks is needed for school administrators across the county to develop plans for social distancing and cleaning in their schools.

“We’re looking at face coverings, making sure we have social distance within our educational settings, which is very difficult to do,” Davis said.

News Channel 8 spoke with Chamberlain High School’s Principal Jake Russell earlier in the week about preparing for the new school year. He said he knows it will be challenging but he and his staff have been discussing different plans and ideas to help the students.

“It is challenging, it’s hard to wear a mask all day but that is the expectation,” Russell said.”We are going to try and think of ways of when we can give them a break, can they get outside and take a break. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Russell adds they will be able to move forward once they have the data from the Declaration of Intent.

“That’s a key component to how we will prepare out master schedule,” he said. “How many kids will opt for the e-learning and how many will choose brick and mortar. Once we get that we will be able to move forward.”

News Channel 8 also spoke to some parents to see what are some of the things weighing on them when it comes to making their Declaration of Intent.

“Once you sign up are you locked in for the whole time,” said Hillsborough County PTA President Frank Reyes. “What’s the time frame if things change? How does that change if things get worse or better?”

The answer is that the Hillsborough County School District is asking parents to make a commitment for the full fall semester whether they want their children back in the classroom or e-learning from home.

“It’s a huge decision for our parents,” Reyes said. “We know that it’s not one that we’ve ever had to make in the past.”

Reyes told News Channel 8 he’s pleased the “Back 2 School” plan the county released addresses transportation.

“I know right now the plan, and again everything can be changed and hopefully tightened up, is have the kids start from the back and work their way up in the buses so they’re not passing kids as they go through,” he said.

When schools shut down in March, 8 On Your Side heard concerns about children who depend on their school meals. To avoid big crowds in the cafeteria, the district’s plan is for students to eat in their classrooms when possible.

“It’s a grab and go. Basically you get your food, you go sit down. They’re gonna social distance the kids as they sit down. There’s gonna be no sharing of food,” he said.

To view the school board’s full “Back 2 School” plan, click the download button below.

To submit your Declaration of Intent, click here.

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