With less than a week until the first day of school, Hillsborough County school officials are going over their COVID-19 plans.

What You Need To Know

  • School system is expecting to have a lot more students coming back to school in-person

  • Teachers prepared for another year of enforcing COVID guidelines like social distancing

  • Superintendent Davis says masks optional, for now

  • More Back to School headlines

Those plans include optional masks and a shorter quarantine period.

The school system is expecting to have a lot more students coming back to school in-person. Because of that, social distancing is going to be tough. But teachers say they'll try.

Meanwhile, district leaders admit there are a lot of "unknowns," so they're asking parents to be patient and flexible.

Teachers such as Laura Ferrell know the drill after last year. The agri-science teacher is setting up her classroom at Rodgers Middle Magnet School. 

"I am excited to come back,” Ferrell said. “We are going to continue to have to be safe and protect our children, but honestly that's not any different than any other year. We're always looking out for our children."

Superintendent Addison Davis says for students and staff, masks will be optional at least for now.

"If we see that there's major spikes within the first two weeks, three weeks and we need to regroup and make adjustments, we'll lean in and work with our local medical experts to make different decisions when faced with that," Davis said.

The district is also cutting down its quarantine time to seven days, and if the exposed person is vaccinated, Davis says they don't have to quarantine at all.

"We want our children to return to the acclimation of our schools,” he said.

School leaders acknowledge there is apprehension in the community.

"What's going on is panic. There's a slight amount of panic,” said school board Chair Lynn Gray.

They want to assure parents safety and sanitation measures are in place. Ferrell says the atmosphere in her classroom will be positive.

"We're just going to keep moving forward,” she said. “We're going to keep doing our best to have fun and make sure they still are on track and learn our standards and move forward."

For students who do have to quarantine, they're going to have teachers available to work with them, and tutoring options will be in place so they don’t fall behind.