Hillsborough schools decide existing COVID precautions are sufficient amid case surge

Hillsborough County Schools will not be implementing any new COVID-19 safety measures with students returning from the holiday break amid another surge, Superintendent Addison Davis said Monday.

The superintendent said the district will instead focus on reinforcing current guidelines already in place.

"One thing I will say is that we have dealt with COVID when it first arrived in January 2020 and we opened up in a safe, social, successful manner," Davis said during a news conference. "We have dealt with the Delta variant and now we know we have a new variant in front of us. We will come out of this side of this process stronger."

In November, the Florida legislature passed a law banning mask mandates in schools. The law also prevents districts from requiring vaccines for students or staff.

Superintendents Davis said the district will continue encouraging masks indoors and increased cleaning and disinfecting. Crews also inspected the HVAC systems in schools to make sure they're running properly and have the correct filters.

Meanwhile, district leaders are urging families to keep their children home and get them tested for COVID-19 if they're experiencing any symptoms. The district has about 40,000 available for families who can't afford them.

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Davis said state law requires students who test positive for COVID-19 to stay home for at least 10 days. Employees can stay return after five days if they produce a negative test, but must still wear a mask for another five days.

"This is a community effort where we can't do this in isolation as a school district," Davis said. "We're asking our community members and our families, our loved ones as you interact, whether it be at the home, at the dinner table, or anywhere within civic centers, to make sure we take the right proactive steps to create the safest environment possible."

Davis said state funding is no longer available to offer virtual learning for students who are recovering from COVID-19. Tutoring programs are available through the district's website.