Tampa-Area Schools Update On Masks And Need For Teachers, Bus Drivers
With the CDC updating its mask policies for the upcoming school year, local school districts are restating policies. Some are also still looking to fill positions.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its face covering guidance ahead of the new school year, districts in the greater Tampa Bay region are sticking with plans to keep masks optional.
The CDC updated its recommendations Tuesday, saying students in grades K-12 and staff should wear masks even if they are vaccinated.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending all students over 2 years old, along with staff members, wear masks in school, even if they are vaccinated.
Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to oppose children wearing masks in school. Shortly after the CDC policy was announced, the governor’s office released a statement saying “parents know what’s best for their children; therefore, parents in Florida are empowered to make their own choices with regards to masking.”
DeSantis said last week that he would oppose any federal mask mandate in schools, indicating that he would call for a special legislative session if such an order was put in place.
At the same time they consider mask concerns, some local school districts are also looking for new employees, particularly bus drivers.
Face coverings will still be optional for students in Hillsborough County Schools. However, the issue was discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting, where officials said the policy could still change if circumstances do.
With regards to employment opportunities, Hillsborough is looking for highly qualified teachers, but not as many as usual given recent budget cuts. Counselors and ESE (Exceptional Student Education) positions are especially needed, according to school spokeswoman Erin Maloney.
Hillsborough is also in “dire need” of bus drivers. Maloney said, as things stand, it looks as though students may even be at risk of being late for class when the school year starts, given the shortage. People interested in applying can click here.
As things stand following a public meeting Monday, masks will remain optional in Pinellas County Schools. That decision is subject to change, according to Public Information Officer Isabel Masacrenas.
Pinellas has fewer job openings than usual this year. However, Mascarenas said they are still on the hunt for just over 45 bus drivers. There are also just over a dozen teaching positions available.
Students will not be required to wear masks in Manatee County Schools. About 4,000 surveys of 18,000 sent out to families with children under 12 in Manatee schools were returned. Just over half — about 51.5 percent — said they would not send their children to school wearing a mask.
The board discussed Tuesday the possibility of separating students based on mask preference, deciding that they would leave that up to individual principals.
Manatee County is also looking to fill 30 bus driver positions and 30 bus attendant spots, according to spokesman Michael Barber. There are also approximately 40 openings for teachers as well. More information can be found here.
Sarasota County Schools will have an optional face mask policy for the upcoming year as well. The decision was approved by the School Board at their July 13 meeting. But the board said Tuesday that it will discuss the policy once again when they meet again August 3.
Sarasota County is looking for new teachers and bus drivers due to retirements, leaves, and more. This year, spokeswoman Kelsey Whealy says they are in need of ESE positions at many levels in schools throughout the district, as well as teachers in highly specialized subject areas like math and science.
Face coverings in schools in Pasco County have been optional since May 28 and will continue that way in the coming school year.
Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning said, while they have received an increasing number of emails from concerned parents, masks will remain optional.
“At this point, we've taken the position that the governor has made it clear to Florida school districts that there is no mask requirement, and until we're directed otherwise, that is what we're doing,” said Browning.
Pasco is also short on bus drivers, and Browning warns that it could get even worse.
“Right now we're going to be sitting around 80 vacancies when it comes to bus drivers and relief drivers. I'm confident before we get to (August) 10 that there will probably be upwards of probably 100 bus drivers that we’re short,” he said.
“If you don't have bus drivers, we can't get kids to school. And if you can't get kids to school, then you can't educate them,” Browning added.
People interested in working in Pasco can click here.
Requests for comment from schools in Polk and Hernando counties were not immediately returned.
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