Superintendent : "I talked to a number of principals and they had indicated to me that it was one of the best school openings that’s they’ve had."By Andrea Alvarez

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – It’s been one week since students and staff at Pasco County Schools have been back in their classrooms or learning from home.

“We made it through a week of face-to-face without closing down a school. Thank you for your work,” said Don Peace, President of USEP (United Schools Employees of Pasco) when he stood to speak at the Pasco County School Board Meeting Tuesday. “Dismissal, blended class sizes, classroom cleaning and bus safety are all concerns that we’ve been able to work towards resolving,” said Peace.

During Tuesday’s meeting, education officials recapped the first week by speaking with the superintendent’s staff about what they saw. “While not perfect, we are very lucky that we did not experience some of the hiccups of our peer districts,” said Vanessa Hilton, Chief Academic Officer, Pasco County Schools.

“We had a great first week of school. I talked to a number of principals and they had indicated to me that it was one of the best school openings that’s they’ve had. I also want to thank the parents for their patience and flexibility,” said Kurt Browning, Superintendent, Pasco County Schools.

“I think they had so much anticipation, so there was really some great relief as they saw the laughter in students’ eyes and heard some voices out on campus and saw the smiles and deep breaths and relief of staff,” added Marcy Hetzler-Nettles, Asst. Superintendent for Middle Schools, Pasco County Schools.

But one Pasco County teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me he didn’t have the same experience. He submitted a statement reading quote: “The kids have already gotten extremely lax with their masks, taking them off throughout the day. 90% of my day is asking kids on Zoom [meetings] to turn their camera on, kids in class to keep distance or to keep their distance from each other. It’s exhausting and its unnecessary! These kids are unnecessarily struggling to get through the day… and we ARE becoming mask police. You’re going to see a lot of highly educated and passionate teachers wall if things stay this way.”

The board then detailed safety measures the district put in place prior to reopening as they continue to work in partnership with the county health department – dealing with getting any questions answered. But that partnership has since grown. Superintendent Browning announced Tuesday that three new testing sites are now being established, specifically for students and staff.

“That will quickly allow us to keep our employees at work and keep our kids in school,” said Browning. He says his he expects them to be open sometime next week. “If someone is symptomatic and directed there by our school nurses, then they would drive through, be tested and the county health department would pick those tests up, get them to the state lab and hopefully have results the next day.”

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