Area schools will look different when students return. Here’s how.

From spaced seating to new rules and cleaning protocols, much has changed since school doors closed in the spring.
Students will be greeted by visual reminders, like this one in Pinellas County, to stay socially distant in school.
Students will be greeted by visual reminders, like this one in Pinellas County, to stay socially distant in school. [ Pinellas County Schools ]
Published Aug. 21, 2020|Updated Aug. 22, 2020

Schools throughout the Tampa Bay area are making modifications to maximize safety during the pandemic. Some of the details will vary across grades and schools as campuses reopen Monday in Pinellas and Pasco counties, and on Aug. 31 in Hillsborough and Hernando counties.

Here are some of the changes to watch for:

Spread-out seating: In some classrooms, student tables will be replaced with individual desks. In others, there will be fewer students at each table. Schools are removing extraneous furniture to allow for as much spacing as possible, although students often will not sit the recommended six feet apart.

Signs, signs, signs: Students will see visual reminders on walls and doors to wash hands, wear masks and remain socially distant as much as possible. There will be directional signs too. In some schools, separate staircases will be used to go up or down.

Face coverings: While everyone on campus will be required to wear masks, expect at least some school staff to be donning face shields too.

Sanitation stations: Classrooms will be equipped with hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies, which teachers and students will be asked to use throughout the day.

Sanitizer dispensers: These should be located throughout the schools and on all buses.

Lockers: Pinellas schools are not allowing students to use lockers until further notice. Physical education lockers are off limits in Pasco, although some high schools will allow use of book lockers. When Hillsborough schools open, locker use will also be a school-by-school decision.

New bus routines: When getting on the bus, students will be asked go as far to the back as possible, loading from back to front. Unloading of buses will start in the front. These steps will minimize students having to pass each other. No more than two students to a seat. Siblings will sit together.

Lunch precautions: At some schools, parent groups have chipped in to buy picnic tables that will be used, when possible, to enjoy outdoor meals. Schools are exploring other lunch spots as well, to cut down on crowding in cafeterias. Protective plastic shields will be a common sight at many lunch tables.

Supply boxes: It is important that children not share supplies and materials. To make that possible, some teachers and principals are crowd-sourcing to buy supplies for these classroom sets.

Separate areas in the nurse’s office: Typically, there will be a well area to treat injuries and a sick area, where a student will wait to be picked up in case of illness.