Pinellas County Schools planning for August re-opening

Pinellas County Schools is asking families and staff to complete a return-to-school Survey by Sunday, June 21, to give feedback on their level of comfort about returning to in-person learning in August.

LARGO — Pinellas County Schools is continuing with its plans for an August reopening.

School Superintendent Michael Grego updated school board members on reopening plans and other matters during a June 9 meeting.

Grego prefaced his updates by saying that last year had been a successful school year.

“Successful, but different,” he said, adding that it was a year that would be marked in education history.

He told the board that work was done on filming virtual graduations and editing should be finished soon.

He sent out a thank you to Spectrum Field and the Philadelphia Phillies for keeping the idea of in-person outdoor graduation ceremonies alive. He said the district also was in talks with the Tampa Bay Rays for use of Tropicana Field with a goal of having two locations to hold graduations.

Grego said he should know more in a week or so.

He said the virtual Summer Bridge programs were going well, and teachers are participating in traditional development activities using virtual methods as well.

Virtual job fairs are helping make sure that all the staff positions will be filled with classes begin Aug. 12.

Staff is continuing to work with medical professionals and union representatives, as well as holding focus groups with teachers and parents to prepare for the return to campus.

He said by the end of June his administrative and summer staff would be back at work.

He said reopening plans call for using phases to “slowly and carefully do what we can to reopen schools in August.”

He will present plans to the board at a July 14 workshop meeting.

The state released recommendations for schools to follow on June 11. Grego participated in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press conference announcing that Florida’s schools would reopen in August. The governor said each district would decide how to best implement plans at the local level.

Return-to-school survey

Pinellas County Schools is asking families and staff to complete a return-to-school survey by 11:59 a.m. Sunday, June 21, to give feedback on returning to in-person learning in August.

The survey is a way to measure a parent/family member, student, district employee or community member’s level of comfort regarding:

• Returning to school

• Model of instruction preferred

• Comfort level in riding the school bus

• Cleaning and sanitizing

• Self-screening and health supports

• Social distancing in schools and classrooms

• Personal protective equipment in schools and classrooms.

The survey is available online at https://survey.k12insight.com/survey.aspx?k=RQsURXWUsSRsPsPsP&lang=0&data=

Equity and policing

Grego also talked about letters the district had been receiving about equity and racism.

He said the district had spent several years working on equity, and every school now has an equity champion. A new equity development staff member will continue that progress, he said.

School Board member Rene Flowers thanked Pinellas County Schools Police Chief Lew Williams, who also is chair of Pinellas Police Standards Council, for his work to make sure his officers use the “8 Can’t Wait” protocols that are being touted as the best practices for law enforcement.

She said working with students is a different setting for law enforcement and professionalism is required.

Flowers said Williams is working on the district’s policies and will be making sure that all the municipalities that contract with the district have something similar.

“The police are looked on as a helper and supporter by students,” she said.

School board member Nicole Carr agreed, saying the district needed to be proactive to make sure officers and guardians used the appropriate methods at elementary schools, as well as a middle schools and high schools.

She said she was proud of the civic engagement by the district’s students and how they were using their voices to say black lives matter.

In other business, the board elected representatives to serve on two Florida School Board Association Committees. Eileen Long was picked to serve on the legislative committee, which is being renamed the advocacy committee. Lisa Cane will be the alternate.

School Board Chair Carol Cook will be the representative to the board of directors. Cane will be the alternate.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.