Social distancing will be enforced, there will be plenty of hand sanitizing stations, and regular cleaning focused in areas of the school with high traffic of students.By Casey Albritton

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – On Wednesday, Hillsborough County Schools released what COVID-19 protocols will be in place when students head back to school next Tuesday.

District officials say there is some concern about heading into the new school year with this Delta Variant, but they are also reassuring parents that a lot of the same COVID-19 protocols will be in place as we head into this new school year like regular cleaning and social distancing. But one thing that will be different is the mask wearing. It’s only going to be strongly encouraged instead of required.

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Lynn Gray, Hillsborough County Schools Board Chair, says “Yes, I’m worried, of course I’m worried. There’s no guarantees that someone will leave for school and say ‘Oh, I’m not vaccinated, I’m going to wear a mask.'”

Laura Ferrell, Rodgers Middle School Teacher said “We will continue to wash hands, we will wear masks if children would like to wear masks.”

The mask debate is an issue that just can’t seem to be solved.

Addison Davis, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent says “TGH Health, USF Health that have been a great partner for us, they strongly recommend students who are not vaccinated or not have accessibility for vaccination to wear the mask.”

That’s why Superintendent Davis says the district will encourage everyone to wear masks in school.

“Coming out of last school year we didn’t really recognize that COVID-19 would have another major spike and we’d be faced with a new variant,” said Davis.

Davis says safety is the number on priority of students, but the district will not fight the governor’s new executive order stating that parents have the right to decide if their student wears a mask or not.

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“I just don’t want to put us in a situation where we are combating any executive order and potentially losing any funding for our school district,” said Davis.

Besides the mask policy, Davis says social distancing will be enforced, there will be plenty of hand sanitizing stations, and regular cleaning focused in areas of the school with high traffic of students.

“Our lunch rooms will continue to have plexiglass barriers between our food nutrition employees as they connect with our students. Everything will continue to be pre-packaged for our students so they can feel safe. As they transition to our lunch room tables we’ll make sure they have seating charts so we can continue to track for direct and indirect contact,” said Davis.

Davis says if there is a COVID-19 case, students in direct contact will have to quarantine for seven days, and can return with a negative COVID-19 test. He says if a student or teacher is vaccinated, they can show proof of that vaccination card and not have to quarantine.

Rodgers middle school teacher, Laura Ferrell, says her goal is to help students as much as possible despite the pandemic.

“Just trying to keep kids on track and deal with not only the emotional and mental fatigue that came from COVID-19 but try to keep them moving forward,” said Ferrell.

The district is also limiting visitors coming into schools for the first 30 days of the new school year and once those 30 days are up, they will re-evaluate.

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Superintendent Davis says he will keep track of the COVID-19 cases over the next couple of weeks and change policies if needed.