Hillsborough parents divided over sending kids back to school as state pumps brakes on district’s plan

Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County School Board members voted this week to start the year with four weeks of online learning only, but the state is now pumping the brakes on that plan. Thursday’s vote also isn’t sitting well with some parents.

Zach Grant works with special needs children at a Methodist Church. On Thursday, he told school board members that one of the families he works with has a son with complex medical conditions and is fearful about going back to school.

“We know following medical guidance keeps our children alive and living their best quality of life,” said Grant.

Tanya Hines also has a special needs son. Her 15-year-old has autism and she thinks he needs to be back in class.

“When he’s around people he’s very grabby. So when he’s in school, they are teaching him life skills, different behaviors, how he needs to appropriately act around other people,” she said.

Hines admits it will be difficult for her son to go back to school under current conditions because he refuses to wear a face mask.

“He can’t tolerate a band-aid, let alone a mask, so I just thought they would try with him with the mask, I just thought they would exclude the special needs kids,” she said.

Hines is now worried that the progress that’s been made by having him in school is being lost because of the pandemic.

“Now all of our hard work, all of the work we’ve done for years is kind of going out the window,” said Hines.

Dan Ringhoff has two children in school at Roosevelt Elementary and says last year, he was forced to stay home with them to help them learn online.

“It was challenging. I think for every family in the country it was challenging,” said Ringhoff.

Ringhoff had to buy new computers for his children so they could participate in online learning, knowing not every family can do that. He also struggled with helping them learn in their new environment.

“We actually had to help them learn how to learn online and we actually had to learn how to learn online too. We had to learn all of the systems,” says Ringhoff.

He’s also disappointed it took the school board so long to decide on a plan.

“We’ve been planning for school to start and we just expected it to and I know that and I know it was all up in the air, but I hoped it would be in-person learning. So now we have to reevaluate everything, we’re not sure what we are going to do,” said Ringhoff.

Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis says he and the school board are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the letter sent by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The letter gave the school district three options moving forward.

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