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Pinellas summer school will be online, superintendent Mike Grego says

He also says health teams have toured campuses to prepare for an eventual return to school.

Summer Bridge, a program that helps students catch up on academics while on break from school, will happen from a distance this year and be expanded, Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego announced Friday.

He also said the thousands of students who have borrowed district laptops for distance learning will get to keep them for awhile, and that a team of medical professionals has toured campuses to help the district plan for a return to schools.

Grego’s statements came during a virtual roundtable event, where he praised district and community efforts to move schooling online in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The forced move to remote learning has served as a “springboard” toward the district’s goal to ensure every student has a digital device, he said.

“We are going to transform this school district not to go backwards, but to go forward,” Grego said. “Remote learning and digital learning has power to it. ... We’re going to capitalize on that. We’re going to learn from these experiences.”

District leaders have said Summer Bridge will be open to all students — those who need extra help as well as those who are already doing well in school. Grego said he had worked on three plans for delivery of the program, but decided it must be fully online.

Related: Florida students will suffer learning losses this spring, educators say

Last year, only about half of the district’s elementary schools were open for Summer Bridge. Now, students from across the county will have access.

Meanwhile, Grego will be working with what he called a “cross-functional planning team" made up of district leaders and health professionals from area hospitals and the county health department. Already, the group has toured some schools to better understand how students move through and gather on campuses, Grego said.

“There’s so many questions about when, how and what things will look like, and we’re letting the medical profession and the data really drive these decisions,” Grego said.

He is set to make a presentation next week to the Florida Association of School District Superintendents, of which he is the president-elect. It will focus on conditions for reopening schools that are “structured and standard” that would apply to all Florida’s 67 districts, Grego said.

“We need to establish those conditions that are safe and ... will guide us all,” he said. “Then, locally, we can have those local decisions on how we might want to go about tweaking that."

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