Tampa area school district to start the school year with one week online after state rejects original four week plan


(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

TAMPA (NewsNation/WFLA) — The eighth largest school in the country will start the school year with one week of online learning instead of the originally-planned four weeks after the state rejected the district’s plan.

As the plan stands now, the Hillsborough County Public Schools school year will begin with e-learning on Aug. 24. Families who decided to take part in traditional in-person learning will be able to send their kids back to school in person on Aug. 31.

The Hillsborough County School district encompasses the greater Tampa Bay area and has more than 200,000 students and 25,000 staff members, per the US Department of Education.

“I have been diligently working to come to a compromise with the Florida Department of Education regarding our reopening plans,” Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis said in a statement. “Unfortunately, FLDOE has rejected two different phased-in models our district proposed that would have delayed our brick and mortar opening while ensuring our most vulnerable student populations were served in a face-to-face capacity.”

The original plan would have meant no brick and mortar classes would be held for the first four weeks of the year.

One day after the vote for four weeks e-learning, Florida’s education commissioner rebuked it and said it went against an emergency order he signed earlier this summer. A spokesperson for the school district disagreed, saying the district explicitly followed the order.

Superintendent Davis visited Florida’s capital on Tuesday to speak with state education leaders. School board member Karen Parez told NewsNation affiliate WFLA Thursday that Tallahassee rejected the district’s plan. 

“I want to first thank you for your patience as our district solidifies final plans to welcome students back this academic year,” Davis said in a letter to parents Thursday. “I know it can be difficult to prepare your learner for this new experience in a fluid environment. I want you to know my number one priority remains the health and safety of our learners and staff.”

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran visited the Tampa area this week and stressed the importance of giving parents options for back to school.

Corcoran attended a White House event Wednesday about reopening schools and during the event, he referred to virtual learning as a “second-tier education.”

Through the proposed e-learning, students will attend school online during regular school hours and follow a standard school schedule. Teachers will provide “live” instruction each day, delivering lessons through the online learning platform Canvas.

Chicago Public Schools announced the district will begin the school year with full remote learning Wednesday.

Los Angeles Unified School decided against reopening later this month for in-person learning. New York City has announced a plan to do hybrid instruction, where students would be in school buildings in small groups on some days of the week but would learn remotely from home on other days.

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