Pinellas County Schools: Parents of nearly 14,000 e-learners ask for return to class

Pinellas County Schools recently asked parents how their kids are doing this year, whether they're taking classes at home or in the classroom. Now that the results are in, the district is preparing for nearly 14,000 students to come back to the classroom.

As of October 6, the parents of 14,711 students had responded to the survey and, according to a Pinellas County Schools spokesperson, all of them want to switch; 13,716 students want to switch from online learning to in-person and 995 want to leave the classroom and go virtual.

Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Mike Grego said right now, about 60% of students are going to in-person classes every day. If an additional 13,716 go back to schools, the percentage increases to 70.

Grego said the district would not need to hire more teachers to accommodate the increase in students.

"Those seats were always saved for those students. So as they come back into the classrooms, they just take that empty seat," Grego said.

However, some in-person classes are being taught by teachers who are also conducting online instruction. Administrators said if more kids are in the classrooms, they hope fewer teachers will need to do double-duty.

With more students inside school buildings, some may have increased concern for COVID-19 outbreaks, but medical experts said schools do not appear to be driving the spread of the virus in Pinellas County.

“What we’ve discovered with the schools is that if a child does come to the school with this diagnosis, that they’re not spreading it amongst their classmates because they are doing the proper things there,” said Dr. Allison Messina of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “They are wearing masks. They are doing the social distancing.”

Even though protocols are in place to help reduce the number of cases in schools, doctors said what happens in the community impacts what shows up in the classroom.

“As long as we can keep those community rates low with everyone playing their part, I think that will be a big part of keeping our schools even safer,” said Messina.

Parents who asked for a switch in their child's learning location will find out if their request was approved by the end of next week, district officials said. The change for students will take effect October 27.