Hillsborough schools brace for Good Friday
Schools across Hillsborough County are trying to assure parents and students that Friday will be a normal school day, even though large numbers of teachers and bus drivers are taking the day off.
To be sure, Friday's normal has many caveats. A number of bus routes will be canceled, and others running late, because roughly 20 percent of bus drivers plan to be absent. Parents will have the option of dropping children off at every school as early as 6 a.m. -- and leaving them there until 6 p.m.
Schools are also making plans to cover for large numbers of absent teachers, potentially three times as many as usual on a Friday. But the situation varies greatly by school, with some schools expecting few to zero absent instructors and others potentially operating without half of their teaching force.
That doesn't mean children without religious obligations should just stay home, school official say.
"Absolutely, we want kids to come to school," school spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. "It's a school day. We're going to conduct school in every school. We're going to have learning. Teachers should be leaving lesson plans, and the subs will carry them out."
This year marks the first time in years that Hillsborough has held classes on Good Friday, following a controversial move to adopt an academic calendar that does not recognize any religious holidays. But the decision long has been mired in culture war debates, with some now saying that people are trying to send a message by taking the day off. For more on how this happened, read today's story here.
Reports of absences may be exaggerated. At Madison Middle, for example, school officials surveyed teachers at the beginning of the week to plan for the worst-case scenario. They reported to the district that as many as 35 out of 57 teachers were thinking about taking Good Friday off, an alarming number that quickly was reported throughout the media. But school officials say that's far from reality.
The school should have 9 teachers absent Friday, and substitutes are coming for seven of them.
"We're anticipating a normal school day tomorrow," Madison assistant principal Ken Hart said. "Our teachers will meet their professional obligations and do the right thing."
Pierce Middle expects 19 out of 68 teachers to be absent, not the 34 teachers initially reported.