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60 percent of Pinellas parents responding chose online school, survey finds

That's the tally so far, with thousands of families still needing to submit a choice for returning their kids to school during the pandemic.

With COVID-19 cases rising, and the spread accelerating among children, a majority of Pinellas County parents responding to a school district survey are signaling they’ll have their children learn from home when classes resume in August.

Just over 60 percent who have responded so far said their students would attend either MyPCS Online — live remote classes through their home school — or Pinellas Virtual School. The other 40 percent indicated they would return to campus for their courses.

That number does not include the plans of nearly 40,000 children whose parents did not answer the survey by the 5 p.m. Monday deadline. The system enrolls about 100,000 students.

District spokeswoman Isabel Mascareñas said school leaders are reaching out to those families to ask their intention. But if they do not make contact, the students will be added to the in-person instruction list.

Superintendent Mike Grego used that math when describing the situation to the School Board Tuesday evening. As it stands now, he said, 63.5 percent of students will be returning to schools on campus. He was counting as yes votes the 40,000 who have not yet responded to the district survey.

Also Tuesday, the School Board voted unanimously to delay the start of classes from Aug. 12 to Aug. 24. The extra time will allow the district to devise schedules, a task made harder as officials offer two kinds of schooling, accommodate some teachers who won’t be able to work on campuses and arrange for bus routes.

They’ll also be aiming at moving target as more parents weigh in and some revise their choices as conditions with the virus change.

“There are some that could not get into the system, and some who still might want to change their minds,” Mascareñas said. “The numbers will fluctuate.”

The choices of the Pinellas respondents so far differ from those in neighboring districts, where the percentages saying they’ll return to school are a bit higher.

In Hillsborough County, for example, 51 percent of students said they would attend school remotely for the first semester, with one-third not yet responding.

In Pasco County, where families have been allowed to switch their choices, the trend has been toward more online learning. But the most recent data available show 67 percent ready to go back to traditional school — down from initial figures — with about a quarter of students yet to indicate their choice.

Mascareñas said Pinellas officials will review the information as they work to assign teachers to the proper in-person or online positions.

Meanwhile, families that still want to submit or change their choices may do so through their schools.

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