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Pinellas schools cut attendance policy, citing coronavirus

The School Board will vote on the change at a meeting Tuesday, but “it’s pretty much already decided," a spokeswoman said.
Pinellas County schools are changing an attendance policy related to exam exemptions because of coronavirus. The School Board will vote Tuesday, but the measure seems to have already been implemented.
Pinellas County schools are changing an attendance policy related to exam exemptions because of coronavirus. The School Board will vote Tuesday, but the measure seems to have already been implemented.
Published Mar. 5, 2020
Updated Mar. 5, 2020

LARGO — Pinellas County school officials have proposed dropping a policy that places attendance expectations on students in order to get exam exemptions, citing coronavirus as the reason why.

The School Board will vote on the change at a meeting March 24, but “it’s pretty much already decided,” said district spokeswoman Isabel Mascareñas. The news had already been shared with principals and parents Wednesday.

The policy allows students who have earned a B or better in their courses to request not to take their district or class semester exam, but they also must not have missed more than five classes during the semester. This applies only to district exams, not state tests like end-of-course exams or the Florida Standards Assessment.

Related: Florida schools teach healthy habits in the age of coronavirus

Because of the coronavirus, the district doesn’t want to enforce the attendance portion, said Kevin Hendrick, associate superintendent of Pinellas schools. If kids are feeling ill, he said, they should stay at home and not feel compelled to go to school just because it would disqualify them for the exemption.

He said the district did the same thing in 2009-10 during the H1N1 flu.

Though the policy change hasn’t been approved by the School Board, a message announcing it has already gone out to principals, Mascareñas said. At least one principal, Mike Bohnet of Osceola Fundamental High School, passed it on to parents in an email Wednesday.

“As our district continues to prepare and plan for all contingencies that could result from the coronavirus in the coming weeks,” he wrote, “the decision to temporarily suspend the attendance portion of our final exam exemption policy is now in effect for this second semester only.”