TAMPA — Responding to backlash from anxious parents, the Hillsborough County school district has extended until July 17 the deadline for families to formally declare how they want their children to attend classes this fall. And before that date, superintendent Addison Davis will take questions about the district’s reopening at a virtual town hall meeting.
Families are being asked to commit to either traditional school or distance learning, with some expected to choose the second option to protect their children from the coronavirus.
District leaders initially said they were looking for commitments by July 10 so they could figure out how many teachers they needed for each school. But parents complained — often forcefully, on the district’s Facebook page — that they were being rushed into a decision without adequate information.
”We are listening,” the district said in Monday’s announcement, “and we have heard our parents who need clarity on our return to school options. We are working on ways to make sure you have that clarity.” No date has been set yet for the virtual town hall.
Copies of the declaration of intent are available on the district’s website, for those who have not yet received them by email.
Opposition exists in a number of areas. First, many parents and teachers want masks to be compulsory. As of now, they will be encouraged, but optional.
Second, parents said they were being asked to make a commitment without knowing key details, such as how desks would be configured and what changes would be made in lunch, physical education and other school activities.
There were questions about how firm the commitment was. District spokeswoman Tanya Arja said parents are committing to 18 weeks of instruction. But she also acknowledged that there could be unusual circumstances that result in a child changing settings before midyear.
Earlier Monday, Davis met with two groups of teachers representing the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. There, he confirmed that 70 percent of students, so far, have indicated they will return to the school buildings.