Tampa Bay students head back to school -- virtually

Spring break may be over for students across the Tampa Bay area, but classrooms will remain empty on Monday morning. Virtual learning will kick off this week for Tampa Bay area districts as students, teachers and parents adjust to the new normal of online lessons.

Over the past week, educators have been hard at work shifting coursework from the classroom to the computer. Each district uses multiple online learning platforms for students to stay connected to their teachers and classmates.

RELATED All Florida public schools to close for 2 weeks to limit coronavirus spread

"Teachers will be taking attendance and students will receive grades for the work they submit,” explained Michael Grego, Pinellas County Schools superintendent. “We will begin slowly to make sure all students and teachers have time to adapt."

School officials got to work after Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all schools to remain closed at least until April 15.

Many counties handed out tens of thousands of devices to make sure students have the necessary tools to learn remotely. Pasco County will kick off their virtual learning later this week.

"Parents will have the opportunity to pick up a device so that their students can get online next Tuesday and continue their education through distance learning," said Kurt Browning, Pasco County Schools superintendent.

Counties like Hillsborough spent the past week prepping their students and teachers to get ready for Monday’s official e-learning launch. There was a brief hiccup on March 23 when the virtual school site went down, but the platform was fixed by mid-morning.

Hillsborough County provided the following hotlines for students and families. Each are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday:

  • eLearning Support: (813) 272-4785
  • Technology Support:(813) 272-4786
  • Mental Health Support: (813) 272-4787
  • General Questions: (813) 272-4788

In Polk County, officials will provide 60,000 devices to use for the school system's Distance Learning program. Bus drivers will be used to distribute later this week. 

While school officials agree this new way of educating will be a learning curve for everyone, keeping everyone safe and healthy is worth the temporary interruption.

"These are extraordinary time we are living in, we are being challenged in ways we have never expected,” said Browning. “From what I've seen so far, I am confident we can handle just about anything."

For district specific information, follow the links below:

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

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map