Q & A: how is the coronavirus affecting Hillsborough?


Illustration from the CDC.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect the new return date for schools: April 15, as well as new information regarding testing. For more information visit: https://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/2650/communications/resources/coronavirus/?utm_source=web&utm_medium=alert&utm_campaign=coronavirus

Following the declaration of coronavirus as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, numerous major events and gatherings have been canceled and public places closed. The Centers for Disease Control has also warned against gatherings of over 50 people for the next eight weeks. Below are answers to some important questions regarding cancelations at Hillsborough and within the district.

Have schools been closed?

Schools across Hillsborough County will be closed through April 15. All extracurricular activities during that time will be canceled as well, including sports. The district will be implementing an eLearning contingency plan during the week of March 23, for which more information is available on the district website.

“All remaining testing for school readiness, voluntary pre-K and K-12 will be canceled for the school year,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news conference. “Requirements for graduation and promotion and final course grades will be evaluated as though those assessments did not exist.” If they choose to, parents will be allowed to hold their children back a year.

Which field trips and events have been canceled?

FBLA’s state conference in Orlando, which was scheduled for Thursday, March 12 to Sunday, March 15, 2020, has been canceled. “It is a fun event for a lot of people,” senior Shreya Kothapalli said. “I think it was a good choice because people come from all around Florida.” The conference includes competitions and elections for state officers.

The pep rally scheduled for Friday, March 12 was canceled as well.

Speech and Debate is also no longer attending three national conferences: Tournament of Champions, which will now be an online tournament, NCFL and NSDA. Many students who had already booked tickets for Tournament of Champions will not be refunded.

The anticipated visit from Swedish exchange students who planned to shadow IB seniors has been canceled for March under recommendation from the FLDOE.

Journalism students will also be unable to attend the Columbia Scholastic Press Association conference in New York and National Scholastic Press Association conference in Nashville as the district has prohibited out-of-state travel by flight for school business. “I had already paid for NSPA and the day after I paid for our New York trip, it was canceled” junior Kylie Smith said. “It’s kind of weird, because they made the decision to cancel a little soon.” Smith was planning to attend both conferences.

The College Board has canceled the next SAT administration on May 2, and students who signed up to take it will be refunded.

Which field trips and events have not yet been canceled?

Prom was originally scheduled for April 4. No specific announcement has been made yet regarding rescheduling the dance. Grad Bash is also still scheduled to be held at Universal Studios Orlando on April 25, although the theme park is currently closed until March 31. Students are advised to see updates from Senior Council in the event of cancelations. “Please be patient as we wait for direction from the State and District regarding athletic contests, prom, Grad Bash, banquets, awards nights, etc.,” Principal Gary Brady said in an email to faculty members.

Additionally, the annual Europe trip for IB juniors is still scheduled although plans may change depending on U.S. travel restrictions. Currently, the federal government has prohibited nonessential travel to Europe.

The International Baccalaureate has published a plan as of now for dealing with an outbreak. The plan pushes back deadlines for IB requirements such as CAS to to July 3 and Internal Assessments to May 20. The IB has also stated that May 2020 exams cannot be postponed or canceled and will therefore still be held in May globally. However, it has yet to be announced how these changes will affect Hillsborough’s IB students. Hillsborough students are still currently expected to take the IB exams in May.

Will lunches be provided during school cancelations?

The Florida Department of Agriculture will be working to provide lunches to students displaced by the coronavirus outbreak. Lunches are not usually served and will not be available during spring break but will begin the week of March 23. “Students can be served once a day, which includes both meals,” Brady said. According to an email to schools from Superintendent Addison Davis, “Each location will start serving food on March 23rd at 9:00 a.m. and remain open until 1:00 p.m. daily.” There are additional community sites, which can be found at: http://www.tampagov.net.

The following schools are food sites:

Alonso High School
Hillsborough High School
Plant City High School

Armwood High School
Jefferson High School
Reddick Elementary School

Blake High School
King High School
Rodgers Middle School

Brandon High School
Lennard High School
Smith Middle School

Chamberlain High School
Leto High School
Spoto High School

Durant High School
Madison Middle School
Strawberry Crest High School

East Bay High School
Middleton High School
Wharton High School

Who should return to school once it reopens?

Any students or employees who have traveled outside the country or been on a cruise are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return according to the district. Additionally, anyone who has been out of the country or on a cruise in the past 14 days or believes they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must fill out a “Return to School” report using the online form on HillsboroughSchools.org.