Pinellas County parent concerned with local leaders taking ownership of reopening schools

Pinellas County

"Our local leaders need to stand up... and fight for us."

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pinellas County mother afraid of coronavirus won’t be sending her daughter back to a traditional classroom this fall.

She believes there’s still too much uncertainty and confusion among county leaders.

Between the school board meeting on Tuesday and the county commissioners meeting on Thursday, she and many other parents are frustrated and voiced their concerns to 8 On Your Side with the pointing of the fingers from county leaders wondering who can be held accountable.

“I’m really concerned about (the reopening of schools this fall),” said Barbara Walker, whose 15-year-old daughter Lonnie is a sophomore at East Lake High School.

This fall, Lonnie’s taking classes through My PCS online because her mom thinks she already got coronavirus in January.

“Lonnie ended up in the hospital. I thought two trips to the hospital seemed odd, you don’t usually have to go to the hospital for a cold,” Walker said.

She believes the neurological issues her daughter is now dealing with may be related.

Walker is frustrated that the county is considering reopening schools. She thinks schools should remain virtual and that there should be a mandatory stay-at-home order for the entire county for a couple of weeks to help the numbers go back down.

“I think there is a breakage in both consistency and communication from national to state to local, they turn around and say it’s the responsibility (of someone else),” Walker said.

So who is the ultimate decision-maker about schools reopening this fall?

News Channel 8 called the Pinellas County School District to find out. They say legally the Pinellas County School Board has the right to make decisions for their own district, but they’re not making that decision alone.

The school district said they’re opening based on an emergency order from the Department of Education saying they have to offer face-to-face instruction five days a week as an option.

However, if the Florida Department of Health recommends the school board to not open, the board and superintendent would take that under consideration, but that hasn’t happened yet.

“My main message is our local leaders need to stand up to protest and fight for us… right now, it is urgent,” said Walker.

Parents must make a decision to send their students back to school in the classroom or virtually by July 27.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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