Florida public schools to close amid coronavirus scare
Image via AP

empty classroom
The Florida Department of Education ordered statewide closures.

Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco County Schools will close for two weeks responding to concerns regarding the increasing spread of the novel coronavirus, district officials announced Friday evening.

The districts made the decision based on direction from the Florida Department of Education, which extended the guidance to every district in the state.

Most districts are being asked to take an additional week off of school in addition to their already scheduled spring breaks. A few districts that have already had spring break were encouraged to extend that by another week.

The three Tampa Bay area districts are already closed next week for spring break, so the anticipated closure will only affect one week of class time.

Classes are now scheduled to resume March 30 in Hillsborough and Pinellas and on March 31 in Pasco.

The decision follows similar decisions in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Previous guidance to students, families and faculty was that anyone traveling during spring break out of the country or on a cruise would be subject to a 14-day self-isolation before returning to campus.

With the additional closure, schools are also canceling all extracurricular activities during the two-week closure.

Hillsborough will also provide eLearning for students, parents and staff during the week of March 23-27. Pinellas said it would update students and families with information about digital learning. Pasco had not yet provided information about online learning opportunities while schools were closed.

The districts did not say immediately whether staff would be compensated during the closure. The Pinellas Schools website said the district would “issue further instruction for staff regarding reporting and leave requirements.”

Schools will also conduct a thorough cleaning of all schools while campuses are closed.

Statewide assessments scheduled for the first week of April will be postponed to dates yet to be determined by the state, according to the Pinellas website.

There have been 45 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida residents as of Thursday night including 16 just announced. Two people in the state have died.

Most individuals affected experience mild-to-moderate symptoms with those of advanced age or with underlying health conditions at the greatest risk of complications.

Earlier Friday President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the virus the World Health Organization now considers a pandemic.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]



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