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Pasco County Will Return To In-School Learning For 2021-22

Superintendent Kurt Browning says cases involving students and staff have "decreased dramatically."

Pasco County students will return to full-time in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year.

Superintendent Kurt Browning made the announcement Tuesday in a YouTube video, pointing to a sharp decrease in the number of positive coronavirus cases involving students and staff since January, while reiterating the Florida Department of Education only authorized remote learning for the current school year.

"Based on recent positive trends and initial guidance from the state, the district will not offer the mySchool Online learning option next school year," Browning said. "We expect the vast majority of our students to be back in the classroom for in-person learning and that our employees will return to their classrooms or offices."

Browning said "current indications" from the state point to the remote learning setup being discontinued next school year, but he added that the Pasco eSchool option — which has been offered since 2009 — will remain available.

The remote learning option "was always intended as a temporary option authorized by the Department of Education for this school year only," Browning said.

He added the school district will continue to closely monitor the number of coronavirus cases involving students and staff.

Browning also pointed to the "mental benefits" students will receive by returning to the classroom.

"Despite our best efforts, our data show that many students who opted for mySchool online are not succeeding academically and would benefit from a return to in-person learning," Browning said.

In addition to students returning to in-school learning, Browning said he expects all 12-month school employees to return to their normal schedules starting June 1, while 10-month employees — including teachers — will return next school year.

Browning said the decision also was made in part because "thousands" of school employees have been vaccinated through the school district's partnership with the Pasco County Department of Health.

He added that, pending an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the county hopes to hold at least one more vaccine event with no age restrictions.

While school staff and students will not be required to receive a coronavirus vaccine before returning to school, Browning stressed the importance of getting one.

"I urge you to seriously consider taking advantage of this opportunity," Browning said. "If you do not wish to be vaccinated, that’s your choice, and we respect your choice.

"Either way, I want to make it clear that unless you qualify for an (Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodation for the '21-22 school year, we expect you to return to your normal work schedule and workplace effective June 1, 2021."

I wasn't always a morning person. After spending years as a nighttime sports copy editor and page designer, I made the move to digital editing in 2000. Turns out, it was one of the best moves I've ever made.