Pinellas County Schools are set to resume regularly scheduled programming on Wednesday, August 12, with two additional options. Students and parents have until 5 p.m., Monday, July 27 to decide how this next school year will go.
“Over 43,000 families, students and staff members took Pinellas County Schools’ Return-to-School survey, sharing their preferences on learning models, personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, bus transportation and more,” reads PCS’ 37-page comprehensive reopening plan.
If parents and students are uncomfortable returning to face-to-face instruction, PCS is offering two online options.
The MyPCS Online (K-12) option will allow students to remain enrolled in their current school and take live classes online. At the end of each nine-week semester, students and parents will be able to choose to continue their education online or return to the classroom.
The second online option is Pinellas Virtual School (K-12). Pinellas Virtual School has been around for several years and allows students to participate in their curriculum 24/7, at their own pace and desired time of day. However, students will not be able to attend their assigned schools and will also have to commit to a full 18-week semester before switching to another option.
“Prior to making your selection, students and families should thoroughly review the details of each option and discuss them to ensure your choice supports the health, wellbeing and learning needs of the student and family,” advises the PCS website.
If a family does not select an option, the student will be enrolled in the traditional face-to-face instruction at their assigned school.
“Based on all the input gathered, and in alignment with the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the protocols within the Pinellas County Schools’ ReOpening Plan represent processes that support ensuring a safe return for students and staff,” wrote Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego in his guiding principles on the Pinellas County School Board website.
Some people are on board with PCS’ plan for the new year.
“I am extremely thankful for the thoughtful and student/family-centered Pinellas County School ReOpening Plan and for your continued support of The BCHS,” wrote Boca Ciega High School Principal Michael Vigue in an email to BCHS Community Members on July 15. “Your involvement and dedication to always doing what is right for our students is wonderful, and appreciated.”
“I have the utmost faith in the leadership and administration of BCHS and I know they are working hard to create a safe environment for our students,” wrote City of Gulfport Councilmember and BCHS teacher Christine Brown. “I’m looking forward to going back; I miss my kids and my colleagues.”
Others have been more cautious.
Pasco County school bus driver Connie Wise has mixed feelings about schools reopening.
Wise has expressed her concerns about having to get another job if schools don’t reopen, but she fears more for her granddaughter, who will start kindergarten in the fall.
“As far as kids going back I have mixed feelings on it. I think that we need to get back to as much as a normal life as possible. But then there is Ellie, my four-year old granddaughter who is to start kindergarten and I worry about her getting sick and it scares me. But she does need to go to school, she needs to have friends and learn.”
Wise also wants to know what the protocol will be for when students who ride the bus get sick.
“Do we all have to self-quarantine and would we get paid? Who is going to be responsible to disinfect the buses and how often? So many questions.
“Bus drivers aren’t mentioned in most of the plans that have been made so far,” said Wise.
In the PCS reopening plan, bus transportation is mentioned briefly. All those who board the bus will be required to wear masks. Students will load from the rear to front to limit interaction. Drivers will be expected to wipe down or spray handrails, seats and windows with a disinfectant between each run. Hand sanitizer will be provided by the front doors.
Once families have made their decision, families should declare their choice by 5 p.m., Monday, July 27 via reservation.pcsb.org.
After July 27, once the school board determines how many teachers will be needed for each learning option, teachers will then have the option to choose whether or not they will teach in person or virtually depending on the needs of the county.
The complete reopening plan can be found at pcsb.org/reopening.
On Tuesday, July 21, Pinellas County Schools released the following press release:
“Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego is recommending to the School Board to delay the start of schools until Monday, August 24 from Wednesday, August 12.
The recommendation is being made in an abundance of caution for the safety, health and well-being of students and staff. The delay will give staff more time to create a schedule based on the learning options chosen by our families. Instructional staff will also have more time to prepare for any changes to lesson plans based on their assignment, either in-person or online. The deadline for families to choose one of three learning options is 5 p.m., July 27.
This is a recommendation only, and it will need to be reviewed, discussed and voted on by the Pinellas County School Board at its next meeting, Tuesday, July 28, at 5 p.m. The meeting will be held virtually.
If approved, the last day of the school year will be Wednesday, June 9. Thanksgiving, spring and winter breaks will remain the same.”