MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Manatee County School Board has voted to push back this year’s school reopening date due to COVID-19 concerns.

As part of that process, the Board voted to open schools for students on Aug. 17, a week later than originally scheduled following a 3-2 vote.

Parents will be given three options to choose for schooling this fall:

  • A 5 day, on-campus instructional plan for parents who want students to return to school full-time
  • A hybrid schedule where students mix on-campus learning with eLearning Manatee
  • An option for parents who want their students to continue full-time eLearning

Parents need to contact their schools by the end of the day on Wednesday, July 22, to let them know what plan they want their students.

In the Manatee County Reopening plan which can be read here show new safety precautions, the school board plans to take this fall.

The precautions include face masks or shields being required on school buses as well as daily employee temperature checks. Visitors at schools will be strictly limited.

Dozens of teachers circled the Manatee School District headquarters as teachers were not allowed to park in the parking lot, so they drove around the building for about an hour. Most in attendance believe it’s too early to open schools safely.

Julia Backus is concerned. “I’ve had a lot of family members get it recently. We don’t know the effects of it long term and I think until we get more information and the community as a whole gets numbers lower,” said Backus. “We need to be safe.”

Kathleen Rockafellow also expressed reluctance to re-enter the classroom right away. “Our community is not practicing safe social distancing or masking,” said Rockafellow. “And so then to put us in the schools where boom, so many people are going to be confined in a small area. It is not safe.”

Board member Dr. Scott Hopes understands their concern.

“If I had children in school today, knowing what I know, with my background, I wouldn’t be sending them to school,” said Hopes, who acknowledged as a board member he also has a responsibility to do the right thing. “Delaying it any more than we’ve already delayed it is just delaying the inevitable. And I do think we need to get our students in and our staff together.”

Charlie Kennedy was one of the two board members voting against the plan.

“I can’t vote for something that puts kids back in school on the 17th,” said Kennedy. “At least, as of where we stand. “