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Hillsborough superintendent: Masks encouraged, students who test positive told to stay home

The district is ramping up efforts to stop the spread as students prepare to head back from winter break.

TAMPA, Fla. — As students in Hillsborough County prepare to get back in the classroom after winter break, school officials are taking steps in an effort to protect them against the most recent surge of COVID-19 in the community.

In an email sent to parents Sunday, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis laid out the steps schools would take to stop the spread, including:

  • encouraging mask-wearing indoors,
  • washing hands often
  • and routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

Schools also plan to provide face coverings, hand sanitizer stations, gloves and wipes for students and adults on campus, according to the email.

The superintendent discussed the plans in more detail during a press conference on Monday, where he explained that the district is doing its best to use "proactive strategies" in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Part of that strategy includes maintaining 10-day isolation protocols for students who test positive for the virus. Under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent guideline update, people who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of age or vaccination status, can isolate for five days then resume normal activities while wearing a mask for the subsequent five days. 

The district is not modifying its policies with students to match CDC guidelines because of the state's ban on mask mandates. 

"We cannot implement the CDC guideline recommendation," Davis said. "So those individual students who are positive for COVID will have to sit out and quarantine for 10 days."

Adults who test positive for COVID-19 have the option to either sit out for the full 10 days or sit out for five days and return to school wearing a mask for five days after that, Davis explained.

“That’s gonna allow us to be able to have our practitioners in front of children. We’ll do it in a safe manner. And at the same token being able to make certain that we…are able to fill the large number of vacancies we're seeing in education, not only throughout the state but throughout the nation as well," the superintendent added.

Davis said schools will have a number of online learning resources available through Canvas for students who have to stay home, but that the district does not currently have the funding to go entirely virtual. 

"There is no longer an emergency order in place to allow us to receive funding for that," Davis said. "So, while it would have been nice to take four or five days from the holiday to go all virtually as a school district, which now we know we are capable to do, we just don’t have the luxury..."

Families without access to a computer or the internet are encouraged to reach out to the district.

 

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