Hillsborough superintendent wants to delay start of school year by 2 weeks

Students in Hillsborough County may be joining kids in other counties by starting school two weeks later than scheduled.

Addison Davis, superintendent of the school district, made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, citing the "unpredictability" of the coronavirus.

"Based on ongoing medical consultations, I will be recommending to the School Board that we delay the start of the 2020-2021 school year for students by two weeks, until August 24th."

The recommendation must still be reviewed and approved by the school board, which will discuss it during their meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Hillsborough's move follows similar decisions by other school boards in the Tampa Bay area. Manatee County opted to push the first day of classes back by one week, starting on Aug. 17, while Polk County decided to move their start date back by two weeks to Aug. 24. Students in Sarasota County have the latest start so far in the Bay Area, with classes pushed back to Aug. 31.

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Doctors say children show milder symptoms from the virus, but one concern is how kids can spread it to the adults in their schools and families.

“They’re much less likely to be very sick, and obviously some kids have died -- an 11-year-old died in Florida -- but the vast majority do really well. Better, in fact, than with influenza," explained Dr. Charles Lockwood, the dean of USF's medical school. "The teachers, though, are worried about it, particularly the older teachers or those who are overweight, have diabetes or high blood pressure. And of course with parents, if the kids come home and infect their parents or grandparents. But in general, they’re much less likely to do that than teenagers or rather young adults or older folks.”

The governor has already ordered all of Florida's schools to make on-campus classes available five days a week, though virtual classes remain an option.

Hillsborough has asked parents to commit to one of those two options. After receiving questions the district has already delayed the deadline for that decision until Friday. It was not clear if today's announcement would impact that deadline.

Davis said he plans to provide an update on the district's safety plan at tomorrow's school board meeting.

"We don't have a playbook," he told state leaders Wednesday, urging everyone to remain flexible.