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New teachers in Pinellas County prepare for 2020 fall semester during unusual times

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Pinellas County is expected to start school in two weeks and a couple of hundred new teachers are getting ready for a year unlike any other.

Pinellas County leaders set up a grab-and-go lunch station in the parking lot of Clearwater High School to welcome them to the district. Because of safety concerns, they couldn’t hold its annual luncheon.

For Kaitlin Morris, 2020 will be a year to remember.

“I’ll be teaching language arts, reading, writing, math and science,” said Morris, who moved to Florida all the way from Pittsburgh.

It’s an important moment in her life because it’s the first time she’s ever taught.

“I’ll do it with a smile on my face even if it’s behind a mask!” she said, laughing.

Morris is one of more than 300 new teachers in Pinellas County preparing for in-person teaching during such strange and unusual time.

Morris and other teachers say they were interviewed virtually back in March and April.

Laurel Wendt experienced that first hand and it landed her a job at Frontier Elementary school. A former Palm Harbor Middle School student, she met her role model in 7th grade — Mrs. Lisa Lennox.

“She was the perfect student,” said Lennox. “It was such an honor to say that you inspire someone to go into education.”

Especially during such uncertain times. Wendt plans on incorporating new tools to help kids follow CDC guidelines in the age of COVID-19.

“There are some really cute children’s books that have been released about the coronavirus and about why we wear the masks and why they are important,” she said.

Morris has already set up her classroom and says social distancing is top on the list.

“In my classroom, it’s round tables that will probably [seat] two or three students,” she said. “But they’re putting up plexiglass barriers so no student is going to be cramped right next to each other.”

The new school year starts on August 24.

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