Manatee County students return to school amid COVID-19 pandemic

Local News

MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – School is officially back in session for public school students in Manatee County. The district is one of the first in the Tampa Bay area to reopen for in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Manatee County Schools gave parents there options for their kids — face-to-face classes five days a week, full-time eLearning, or a hybrid option.

Superintendent Cynthia Saunders says the first day back was a success. “From an opening day standpoint, very pleased,” said the superintendent.

The superintendent says as of Monday afternoon, there were no positive COVID-19 cases or exposures at any of the district schools.

Saunders visited several schools throughout the district Monday morning to get a clear idea of how things were going from a logistical standpoint.

“The conversation is the same in most schools. Really what they are wanting to know is — ‘how are you, do you have any concerns about coming back under the pandemic, are there any things that we need to know of that occurred since you’ve been gone that we can help you with either from at home standpoint from an academic standpoint’. Really those are the same questions that we are asking all of our teachers to assess our students,” said Saunders.

“We really want to gauge how have you been, emotionally, academically, physically,” said Saunders. She says it is also important to gauge students’ internet and computer device accessibility at home should students need to switch to eLearning due to a possible exposure or positive case.

Students at Virgil Mills Elementary School in Palmetto showed up Monday morning to have their temperatures checked before entering the building.

“I am happy that they are taking correct precautions to try to make the space safer so that the education process can occur. We are really pleased with that,” said parent Edward Wolanin.

Photo courtesy: Manatee County Schools

At Bayshore High School in Bradenton, students describe what it was like going back to school in the middle of a global pandemic.

“Tt was very strange,” said senior Asha Chery. “In the hallways, there are arrows pointing where you need to go and there are certain stairways where you can’t go up, it’s only going down. It is low-key frustrating, but it is understandable. I know where my classes are, but I have to do a whole 360 around the school to get where I need to be,” said Chery. “Lunch is a whole different story. We have little cubbies directing us where to sit, where not to sit. It is a new atmosphere, new changes, but I like it,” she continued.

Chery says most of her classmates stayed masked up throughout the day and respected the safety of others. She hopes to see students continue their efforts to keep schools open.

Superintendent Saunders says between social distancing, masks, physical barriers and smaller classes — the hope is to limit contact and possible exposures to COVID-19 as much as possible.

“So if you did have an infected case, it wouldn’t necessarily mean the entire classroom or the entire school is going to have to be shut down,” said the superintendent.

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