The Pinellas County School Board unanimously voted Tuesday evening to delay the start of the school year two weeks, from Aug. 12 to Aug. 24. Teachers will now start Aug. 13.
Pinellas is the latest school district to join its neighboring Florida counties — Hillsborough and Pasco — in delaying the school year.
The school year was originally scheduled to end May 27, but will now end June 9, 2021.
Parents had to make a selection by Monday evening among three schooling options: brick-and-mortar in person schooling, MyPCS Online or Pinellas County Virtual School.
Of about 60,000 respondents, 60% opted for digital learning through either MyPCS or Pinellas Virtual. The remainder chose brick and mortar learning. However, about 40,000 families didn’t select any option by the Monday deadline to do so. The district is reaching out to those families to ascertain their preference. Families who still don’t choose a preferred option will be automatically enrolled at their assigned brick and mortar school. If all of those families were to return to in-person learning, about 64% of Pinellas County students would be returning to brick and mortar schools.
The board also surveyed teachers on how they will be able to proceed with the school year.
From the 7,500 full-time instructional staff, about 13.6% are unable to go back because of a medical reason. The 13.6% breaks down to 643 teachers with underlying medical conditions, 39 teachers that are over the age of 65 and 345 teachers that live with a person who is high-risk.
There were also 566 teachers who do not yet feel comfortable going back, 13.3% of the Pinellas County instructional workforce.
“We’re altering their jobs, we’re altering what we’re doing, we’re altering timelines because it’s all hands on deck at this point,” Superintendent Michael Grego said. “We’ve got to get school ready, no matter what the delivery system looks like.”
Board members also discussed teacher pay. No one will have a salary reduction this year, but there will be a delay because of the new start date, Grego said. Support staff and teachers who haven’t opted for a 12-month pay scheme will have an eight day delay in receiving this school year’s first paycheck. The district worked out a deal with Achieva Credit Union to provide low-interest loans to staff affected by the delay.
The first full ten day paycheck will land in employees’ wallets Sept. 11.