Hillsborough starting school with 1 week of online learning after state rejects 4-week plan

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Students in Hillsborough County will now just start the school year with one week of online learning instead of the originally-planned four weeks.

A member of the school board for Hillsborough County Public Schools confirmed to 8 On Your Side Thursday that the state had rejected the district’s plan to start the school year with four weeks of online learning. The district now says it’s moving forward with just one week of online learning.

“I have been diligently working to come to a compromise with the Florida Department of Education regarding our reopening plans,” Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis said in a statement. “Unfortunately, FLDOE has rejected two different phased-in models our district proposed that would have delayed our brick and mortar opening while ensuring our most vulnerable student populations were served in a face-to-face capacity.”

As the plan stands now, the school will begin with eLearning on Aug. 24. Families who have opted to take part in traditional in-person learning will be able to send their kids back to brick-and-mortar school on Aug. 31.

“I want to first thank you for your patience as our district solidifies final plans to welcome students back this academic year,” the superintendent said in a letter to parents on Thursday. “I know it can be difficult to prepare your learner for this new experience in a fluid environment. I want you to know my number one priority remains the health and safety of our learners and staff.”

The plan the school board voted on last week would have meant no brick and mortar classes would be held for the first four weeks of the year.

One day after the vote, Florida’s education commissioner rebuked it and said it went against an emergency order he signed earlier this summer. A spokesperson for the school district disagreed, saying the district explicitly followed the order.

Superintendent Davis visited Tallahassee on Tuesday to speak with state education leaders. School board member Karen Parez told 8 On Your Side Thursday that Tallahassee rejected the district’s plan. 

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran was in town with Gov. Ron DeSantis this week and stressed the importance of giving parents options for back to school.

Corcoran attended a White House event Wednesday about reopening schools. During the event, he referred to virtual learning as a “second-tier education.”

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