Hillsborough County schools analyze coronavirus response, so far; look toward graduation ceremonies

Thousands of students in Hillsborough County are adjusting to a life of e-learning and uncertainty about the end of the school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During Tuesday's school board meeting, the superintendent shared how the district is handling the shift and what its plans might be for graduation ceremonies. Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said the district is writing the rule book right now.

“I’m so used to having a system of going to campus every day, seeing my normal friends, seeing my teachers, and I can’t do that,” said Emily Gilmore, a senior at East Bay High School. “Adapting from a typical classroom to online learning, it’s rocky.”

READ: Florida public school campuses to remain closed through April

Davis said the system could be improved. The district has delivered 32,000 devices to children and 16,000 more are on the way, he said.

“It’s already different enough to move from the classroom to our homes and so by creating an added angst on top of that, that doesn’t put us in a good situation,” said Davis. “But the good thing is we’re addressing that with the vendor. We’re looking at additional vendors as well.”

Davis updated members on where the district stands about internet access for students, meal deliveries and concerns about events for high school seniors. With a few weeks left before the summer break, some traditional coming of age events seems out of reach.

Seniors told FOX 13 they will miss prom and they worry about graduation.

“From my standpoint, because I enlisted into the military, I really want my diploma in my hand. So, that way I can leave, but now I’m not even sure if I can leave,” said Gilmore.

Some parents posted their thoughts on social media. One parent shared on Facebook, “My heart is breaking for the class of 2020” and ”their feelings are relevant.”

Parents like Jennifer Rodriguez said they are comforting their children as their last days of school go by. Rodriguez’s daughter Alyssa Garcia is a senior at Riverview High School.

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“All I can do is tell her that this is all happening so that everybody can be protected. When she asks me can I go out with my friends? Nope, we’ve got to stay home, so we can hopefully get a prom,” said Rodriguez. “I think everybody thinks the younger generation doesn’t really understand, but they get it.”

Students said they understand why they are being kept out of the schools, but those are life experiences they may likely miss out on.

“I feel frustrated, but it’s all for a good reason because of the virus and everything,” said Garcia. “So I feel like they’re doing it to keep us all healthy and safe. So, it’s for a good reason.”

Schools across the state will remain closed through May 1.  The Hillsborough County superintendent said graduation ceremonies are still planned as scheduled. But they are working on backup plans in case the schools are not able to hold a traditional event according to CDC guidelines.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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