The shifting track of Hurricane Eta has prompted the Pinellas and Pasco school districts to cancel classes early on Wednesday and remain closed on Thursday.
Hillsborough County schools, closed Wednesday because of Veterans Day, will not reopen for the remainder of the week. But it will hold classes online Thursday and Friday, similar to its operations from the beginning of the year.
Hernando County schools, also shut for Veterans Day, will remain closed Thursday, too.
In Pinellas, early dismissal begins at 10 a.m. for high school students, with elementary schools to follow at 11 a.m. and middle schools at noon.
In Pasco, schools that usually let out at 2 p.m. will release at 11 a.m. Those that ordinarily dismiss at 3 p.m. will end at noon. The remainder will close at 1 p.m.
Both districts also have canceled all extracurricular activities through Thursday. Free meal distribution in Pinellas schools also is called off for Thursday. After school child care programs in Pasco are closed, as well.
“We expect to have school on Friday,” Pasco spokesman Steve Hegarty said.
Pinellas spokeswoman Isabel Mascareñas said the decision came early to ensure students are home safely before the heavy weather arrives.
“We encourage families to ... please pay attention to phone calls through School Messenger,” as well as emails from the district, Mascareñas said.
The Pasco district will provide updates via social media, SchoolMessenger, and the district website.
In an email to parents, Hillsborough superintendent Addison Davis explained that several schools in the district have been designated as shelters during the storm. As a result, the district will not hold in-person classes Thursday or Friday.
Davis said he wanted to have continuity of instruction, though, so the district will move to fully online classes for those two days. Anyone without access to needed technology will be excused and given the opportunity to make up the work, he said in an interview.
The district also canceled all after-school activities for Thursday. They are slated to resume on Friday as scheduled, though coaches will have the option to discuss moving games to Saturday if that appears a better choice, Davis said.
This wasn’t an easy decision, he noted.
“However, we must place the safety of our students and staff first and take many things into consideration that includes possible road closures, high winds, damage to school buildings, power outages and whether our schools are being used as shelters,” he wrote in his email to parents.