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'We're In a Different Place': Hillsborough County Students Return From Winter Break

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - "We're in a different place as a community than we were when we left for December 17th," said Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis. As students and staff return from winter break, the Hillsborough County School District is ramping up its efforts to stop the spread of the virus inside it's classrooms amid the most recent surge of Covid-19.

"Let me be clear that anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms to please stay home," said Superintendent Davis. The county saw a 3-4% seven day average positivity rate when students left for winter break whereas Monday, the county faces a 14% seven day average positivity rate in Coronavirus cases.

"And it will eventually impact our schools, every single day in our classrooms," said Davis. "One thing we know we'll continue to do is encourage to wear masks when you're indoors. Washing our hands, making sure we're continuing to clean all the surfaces we interact with." Sunday, the district began running ventilation and airflow systems prior to students' return. Superintendent Davis says it's important that certain mitigation strategies are in place.

According to the CDC, if a student tests positive for coronavirus, he or she can sit out for 5 days before returning to the classroom.

"With house bill 1B, we cannot implement the CDC guidelines recommendation. So those individual students who are positive for Covid-19 will have to sit out and quarantine for ten days," he said. "House Bill 1B, it really gives are the rights to the families. As it relates to teachers, we're going to implement the CDC guidelines because we can do that with adults."

If a teacher or staff member tests positive for the virus, they'll be given the option of either sitting out for ten days or five days with the requirement to wear a mask for five days upon returning. Other than in this instance, masks are not mandated, but they're encouraged.

"Here we are in year two, and we're learning that we need to adapt and live with this because we can't have children out of school for years," said Chair Nadia Combs, Hillsborough County School Board. The district says online learning resources are still available through Canvas but the district's hands are tied when it comes to funding to allow them to go completely virtual.

"So while it would have been nice to take four or five days after the holiday to go virtual as a school district, which now we know we're capable to do, we just don't have the luxury related to the instructional time to have time on task," said Davis. "As ya'll know, we're not in a financial situation to take that risk, so we're unable to do it. And that's all linked to recommendations and new statue on requirements outlined through Tallahassee." If your student does not have access to a computer from home, you're encouraged to reach out to the district.

Superintendent Addison Davis says the district will continue to partner with TGH and local providers for rapid assessments for employees – for immediate response to get them back into the classrooms as soon as possible. Reporting in Hillsborough County.

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