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Pasco schools seek parent, staff input on reopening

‘There are no cookie-cutter solutions,’ superintendent Kurt Browning says.
Workers scour a Wesley Chapel High School classroom after Hurricane Irma evacuees left the campus in 2017. Will schools need deep cleans like this daily if they reopen during Covid-19?
Workers scour a Wesley Chapel High School classroom after Hurricane Irma evacuees left the campus in 2017. Will schools need deep cleans like this daily if they reopen during Covid-19? [ JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times ]
Published May 20, 2020

Pasco County school district officials hope to have a plan for resuming face-to-face instruction ready for review by July 1.

They don’t want to craft a proposal that doesn’t make parents, students and staff feel comfortable, though.

So the district has joined a growing list of school systems statewide in turning to the public for input. Unlike others, though, Pasco isn’t just putting out a survey.

It’s launched a “thought exchange” — one for the community and another for employees — in which it asks open-ended questions and leaves room for participants to anonymously comment on the ideas submitted by others.

“There are no easy answers and there are no cookie-cutter solutions,” superintendent Kurt Browning said in his video introduction to the online activity. “We will not move forward or settle on a menu of options until our parents, students and staff have had a chance to weigh in.”

District spokesman Steve Hegarty, who is overseeing the initiative, said the current thought exchange is a way to get the conversation and likely would lead to additional rounds as the administration reviews the input and seeks further opinions. As time passes, Hegarty added, views might change along with shifting scenarios as other sectors of society reopen.

“This is to tease out what their concerns are,” he said. “As we put together a plan, we’re going to have to address those concerns.”

In the first few hours the system was live, some issues became clear.

Nearly 300 participants in the community version indicated the importance of having soap, sanitizer and paper towels in the schools — something they suggested wasn’t always available in the past. The cleanliness of school buses generated like concerns.

A similar number wanted details about what would happen if Covid-19 cases spike again.

“Are we going to have the resources in place to really educate our kids at home for a full year?” one wrote. “We need to have planned in advance for this to happen.”

Other “hot topics” included allowing families to choose between in-person and remote instruction, screening everyone who comes to campuses, and ensuring proper disinfecting occurs.

In his video comments, Browning said the health and safety of everyone involved would remain the top priority.

The thought exchange will be open through June 1.

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