By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Hillsborough County school officials, in partnership with state health officials, are set to host seven COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children ages 12 and older starting this week.
Meanwhile, school officials have announced that with “ongoing safety protocols, widespread availability of vaccinations and local awareness of the effects of COVID-19 in the community,” the new school year is set to open with two learning options for parents.
One, they can send their children to school for face-to-face instruction or, two, they can enroll their children in Hillsborough Virtual K-12 (HVK12) for off-site instruction. The eLearning option that had students learning at home with their school-based teachers no longer will be an option.
Beginning June 7, and covering the time period from summer school to the start of the new school year, face coverings will be optional for all students, staff and visitors. The district is set to work with local health officials to monitor conditions across the County “in case a change in this decision is warranted.”
School officials say with a decrease in COVID rates and an increase in vaccinations, it’s time to move “toward a more normal way of work.”
“Recent data shows children are facing numerous challenges academically and emotionally, with many falling behind in core content areas such as reading and math,” Superintendent Addison Davis said in his prepared remarks. “It is time students receive accelerated instruction in front of high-quality educators while also having full access to mental health supports at our schools.”
According to school officials, principals are on board with the move back to normal, with 186 principals out of the 198 surveyed indicating face-to-face instruction and HVK12 are the best options for their students.
Quoted in the school district’s news release is Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the Florida Health Department in Hillsborough County.
“Vaccination has proven to be highly effective in preventing infection, allowing for the relaxation of the mitigation efforts that were needed over the past year,” Holt said. “We strongly encourage those who have children 12 years old and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”