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Hillsborough schools end mask mandate, eLearning program

The new policies take effect Monday.
Zachary Ashcroft, 16, wears a Mickey Mouse mask Aug. 31, 2020, on the first day of school last year for Hillsborough County students, at Hillsborough High School.
Zachary Ashcroft, 16, wears a Mickey Mouse mask Aug. 31, 2020, on the first day of school last year for Hillsborough County students, at Hillsborough High School. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jun. 4
Updated Jun. 4

Students, staff and visitors no longer will have to wear masks at Hillsborough County school district properties or activities, starting Monday.

Citing a decrease in coronavirus cases countywide, and changing advice from the Centers for Disease Control, the district on Friday announced it would join other area school systems in abandoning mask mandates. The Pasco district ended its requirement a week ago, and the Pinellas School Board is set to rescind its rule on Tuesday.

At the same time, the Hillsborough district stated it will no longer provide live-remote instruction, which many referred to as eLearning. Offered in the past year to allow children to learn from home during the pandemic, the model is falling out of favor for the coming academic year, with the state ending its funding of the approach.

Related: A rising Hillsborough school leader battles claims of gender, racial bias

“It is time students receive accelerated instruction in front of high-quality educators while also having full access to mental health supports at our schools,” superintendent Addison Davis said in a news release.

Students will be able to take classes through traditional in-person schools, or continue to get online instruction through Hillsborough Virtual K-12. Families can apply for the virtual program at http://bitly.com/HVK12APPLY.

Officials explained that the widespread availability of vaccinations played into their decision. They encouraged parents and children age 12 and older to receive the inoculation.

“Vaccination has proven to be highly effective in preventing infection, allowing for the relaxation of the mitigation efforts that were needed over the past year,” local health department director Dr. Douglas Holt said in a released statement.