Pinellas Releases Draft Back-To-School Plan, Mandates Masks

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL — Along with #2 pencils and three-ring binders, Pinellas County public school students can add face masks to their lists of back-to-school supplies.

Pinellas County Schools has released a draft of its reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year in which it announced that masks will be a required accessory for all students, teachers and staff on school campus when the new school year begins Aug. 10.

The Pinellas County School Board will discuss the plan in greater detail at a virtual workshop July 14 with a special called meeting afterward the workshop.

According to the draft reopening plan, masks must be worn by all students from the time they step on the school bus each morning until they get off the school bus that afternoon.

To minimize contact between students, students will get on the school buses from the back emergency door and head to the front of the bus to be seated, so they don’t pass other students. Buses then will be unloaded from front to back.

Classrooms will be arranged to maximize the space between desks for social distancing and all desks and materials will be sanitized regularly.

Lunch times will be staggered to reduce the number of students in the cafeteria. Lunch tables and seating will be spread apart as well to avoid contact between children eating lunch.

And all parent-teacher meetings will be virtual.

These are just a few of the details in the 37-page plan intended to send Pinellas County’s 104,000 students back to the county’s 140 public schools.

The draft plan also contains protocols for students with special needs, quarantine requirements for students who test positive for the coronavirus and health protocols for children attending school.

The draft plan came after hours of discussion and research on ways to best protect staff and students, said Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego.

“We have been meeting regularly with our medical advisory group, comprised of pediatric and infectious disease specialists from BayCare, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Community Health Centers of Pinellas, along with the Pinellas County Health Department,” Grego said. “Doctors have toured elementary and secondary schools to get an understanding of how students and teachers interact and move throughout a school campus.”

Additionally, more than 43,000 families, students and staff members took the district’s Return-to-School survey, sharing their preferences on learning models, personal protective equipment, social distancing, bus transportation, sports, extracurricular activities and field trips.

The district also hosted 11 feedback groups with parents, staff members and community
stakeholders to review and discuss multiple return-to-school scenarios.

“After taking all the medical data and stakeholder input into account, the district has put a plan in place that provides learning options to fit all students’ and families’ needs, while keeping the health and safety of all individuals at the forefront of our decision-making,” Grego said. “We know our families are anxious to make the best decision possible for their students, and our staff is equally eager to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Under the reopening plan, which will be available on the school district’s website, families will be given three options for students: traditional brick-and-mortar schools, online learning through MyPCS Online, and through the new Pinellas Virtual Schools, the county’s own version of Florida Virtual School.

After reading through the back-to-school plan, parents will be asked to select one of the three learning options and complete an online form for each student enrolled in Pinellas County School no later than 5 p.m. July 27.

This article originally appeared on the Clearwater Patch

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