TAMPA, Fla. — Summer is speeding by faster than a Florida afternoon thunderstorm, and the start of school is just weeks away.

Normally, July marks the beginning of the back-to-school shopping season, but new clothes and backpacks are taking a back seat to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • School districts are offering online options

  • There are deadlines for parents to make decisions

  • Some districts are requiring students and teachers to wear masks

​Bay area school districts are making – and changing – their reopening plans as we get closer to the opening bell.

Here’s where they currently stand:

Citrus County

Parents can either send their children to a brick-and-mortar school – where masks will be required in classrooms and buses – or enroll them in the county’s full-time K-12 virtual school.

Both will follow the board-approved calendar, but virtual school offers flexible class times. 

Attendance will be taken in person and online.

Students enrolled in virtual school can still participate in athletic programs.

Parents must decide between the two options by July 17, and links to the appropriate forms can be found on the school district’s website.

Hardee County

Three options are available: Traditional school, HardeE Innovative Learning Opportunity (HILO), and MyDistrict Virtual School (MDVS). 

Registration forms are posted on the district’s website, and parents have until July 23 to make their selection.

HILO allows students to learn remotely while remaining enrolled in their regular school. If a parent ultimately decides it’s not the best option, the student can transition back to face-to-face instruction at the end of a quarter.

MDVS is run by the North East Florida Educational Consortium, and students can enroll in different districts, but their home district is responsible for administering standardized tests. 

Parents have until August 28 to enroll their children in MDVS.

Hernando County

According to the district’s website, enhanced cleaning and social distancing protocols will be a top priority in classrooms, cafeterias, and on buses.

The district is encouraging staff and students to wear masks at school, but is not requiring them.

All staff members will have their temperature taken when reporting to work.

Meals will be pre-packaged and provided for free to all students with condiments and utensils included.

Hernando County is also offering a virtual learning option in addition to traditional schooling, and enrollment for that ends on July 21.

Any student attending eSchool must complete an entire semester (two quarters) before returning to a regular classroom. 

The district’s complete reopening plan can be found online.

Highlands County

Parents have three options to choose from: Traditional, Remote Online Learning, or Highlands Virtual School.

All students and staff returning to campus will have their temperature taken every day before boarding school buses or entering schools.

Teachers will rearrange classrooms to maximize social distancing, posted signs will encourage frequent hand washing, and hand sanitizer will be available throughout each school. 

Masks are encouraged, but they will not be required.

Remote Learning Online is an option for elementary and middle school students to continue their education at a distance while remaining connected to their classrooms. 

They will follow a standard schedule and participate in real-time classes with teachers each day.

Laptops will be provided by the district with continuous technical support.

Highlands Virtual School allows for more flexibility. Students will complete coursework at their own pace, and instruction is personalized.

More information is available on the district’s website.

Hillsborough County

All students and staff members in the Bay Area’s largest school district will be required to wear face masks. 

The board is still deciding between three overarching models for reopening, and parents can still weigh in by July 17 on which model should be followed.

According to the district’s website, Model A calls for movement around campuses to be controlled and assemblies and field trips to be limited.

Model B would allow students to spend four days in a classroom followed by six days of learning remotely. No more than half of all students and staff would be on campus at any given time.

Model C would keep campuses closed and force all students to participate in eLearning, but a recent executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis requires all districts to reopen schools for face-to-face instruction five days a week.

Regardless of which model is adopted, parents can decide to enroll their children by July 24 in the district’s Virtual K-12 instead.

Manatee County

Manatee County Schools won't reopen until August 17 – one week after the originally scheduled start date of August 10.

Both in-person and virtual learning options are available, and parents have to decide by July 22.

Any student enrolled in eLearning Manatee can participate in school activities and events, and parents can “fluidly change from one plan to another,” according to the district’s website.

Teachers will provide live instruction for daily online lessons and assign the same coursework given to students attending brick and mortar schools.

All students and staff members on campus will be required to wear face coverings – except during recess and physical education – and cloth masks will be provided for free.

Masks must be worn on school buses as well, and each bus will be cleaned between routes.




Pasco County

Parents had until July 8 to decide whether to send their children back to school or enroll them in a virtual learning option.

They can still call their child’s school to make a selection, or the district will assume the child plans to attend traditional classes, where masks or face coverings will be required.

MySchool Online and eSchool are also available.

Students enrolled in MySchool Online will follow the standard school schedule and have real-time interaction with Pasco County teachers.

Attendance will be taken daily in each class.

Pasco eSchool offers non-traditional hours but requires a parent or guardian to serve as the student’s learning guide, especially at the elementary school level.

Students enrolled in eSchool can still participate in extracurricular activities and can choose to attend school field trips.

More information on all three options can be found on the district’s website.

Pinellas County

Classrooms will be arranged to maximize social distancing, and all students and staff members must wear masks.

Parents will be responsible for ensuring their children do not attend school while exhibiting any possible symptoms of COVID-19 by following a set of self-screening guidelines.

School clinics will create separate spaces for students who are not feeling well to limit the risk of exposure.

Only essential visitors will be allowed on campus, and all volunteers must be assigned to the same group of students each time.

High school sports teams are allowed to practice outdoors in small groups, but the district has not decided whether games will take place during the year.

Field trips will not be scheduled at least through the first quarter.

For parents who don’t want to send their children back to traditional school, two remote learning options are available.

MyPCS follows a regular school schedule and requires a nine-week commitment.

Students who enroll in Pinellas Virtual School can complete assignments at their own pace. They can switch to another option after the first semester.

You can find more information on the school district's website.

Polk County

The district created a task force of school officials, health care professionals, community leaders, and parents to develop its reopening plan.

On Tuesday, July 14, it announced the start of the school year will be delayed until August 24. It was originally scheduled to begin on August 10.

For those attending brick and mortar schools, masks will likely be recommended but not required.

All students and staff members will go through a symptom screening each day, hand sanitizer will be available at multiple locations on campus, and signs promoting good hygiene will be posted.

As in other counties, there will be an eSchool option, where Polk County teachers will provide individualized instruction at set times.

There is also a virtual school option that allows students to learn at their own pace.

Parents and guardians have until July 27 to make their selection.

More information is available on the district’s website.

Sarasota County

The district asked parents and employees to complete surveys, and links are available on its website.

Preferences stated in the surveys will influence the final reopening plan.

In a set of draft guidelines released online, the district proposed increasing the space between desks to promote social distancing and installing barriers where distancing is not possible.

The district also wants to limit unnecessary movement on campus by keeping students with the same teachers as much as possible. 

Other proposals include one-way hallways and stairwells to limit face-to-face contact.

According to the draft, the district will continue to follow CDC guidelines by strongly recommending that students and staff members wear masks – but not requiring them.