PINELLAS COUNTY (CW44 News At 10) – Thursday, Governor DeSantis announced his recommendations to safely reopen Florida’s education system. Pinellas County Schools are finalizing plans for students to head back to class in August, but some major changes are being considered.

“We have about 20,000 students enrolled in virtual Summer Bridge. Yesterday we began opening our campuses back up for some different programs including athletics,” said Kevin Hendrick, Assoc. Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services.

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“Of course there’s a long time and one of the things we’ve all learned in the last couple months is things change on a regular basis so we’ll see what that looks like come August 12th but we’re planning for multiple scenarios,” said Hendrick.

During the summer bridge period, the district distributed 26,000 computers and other devices to students for continued education.
“In many cases, parents were able to see teachers live, see what the lessons look like and support their children in different ways,” said Hendrick.

And an upside to Covid-19’s impact on the district is the access to new resources for students. School officials say learning from distance gave them an opportunity to explore new educational options and some of those techniques are being adopted into their school system given the positive effect on student engagement.

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“Because they had technology support, because they had internet access at home. So as a school district, we’re going to try to extend that forever. We don’t think there’s ever a reason to why the students should be at home without internet and without a computer device,” said Hendrick.

During a special Pinellas County School Board Workshop Tuesday morning, officials addressed specific protocols on how classrooms and workspaces will be sanitized.

“What we’re asking them to do now is, from this point forward, every single night, to clean in a very prescribed protocol,” said Clint Herbic, Assoc Superintendent, Operational Services.

And Hendrick says there’s a tunnel vision focus on helping students academically and emotionally as they reopen.

“Face to face instruction with a high quality teacher is always going to be the best way, being around others their age and growing and learning. When you’re doing this digitally, there’s a chance that those things slide,” said Hendrick.

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Hendrick says it may take a couple years to get new computers in every student’s hand, but it’s become a long term goal. Pinellas County Schools’ final back to school plans will be released on July 14th. Stick with CW44 News at 10 for this developing story.