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End of the World Friday: Worried parents may keep kids out of school Friday

7:59 PM, Dec 20, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Are you sending your kid to school on Friday?

A lot of parents are grappling with that decision, in part because of a flurry of unsettling rumors about potential acts of violence on campuses.

Add to that an end-of-the-world scenario, and it's made for even more tension during what has already been a tense week for parents of school-aged children.

Many were already planning to keep their kids out of school Friday as they get an early jump on holiday travel. But this year, others will stay away out of sheer concern.

The Hillsborough County School District is bracing for absenteeism on school campuses driven by the fears and rumors.

"All of the incidents have turned out to be harmless and all the rumors have been unfounded," said Steve Hegarty, a school district spokesman.

School officials say there's been a combination of factors behind parents and students' fears. First, nerves are still raw in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

There have also been several unfounded copycat threats made this week at Bay area schools.

And now, throw in the "end-of-the-world" scenario on the Mayan calendar, and speculation someone will use a mythological doomsday to create very real mayhem.

"There do seem to be two incidents that are sort of adding up to something that kids with their imaginations are reacting to that," said Hegarty.

On Wednesday, parents got another robo-call from Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, reminding them "each rumor has been unfounded," and it had been no small task to address each and everyone one of them.

Most parents seem reassured, and say their children will be in class Friday.

James Good says there'll be a celebration going on in his daughter's elementary school class.

"I wouldn't have her miss her kindergarten party," he said.

Another parent, Linda Hawk, brushed off the Doomsday scenario.

"Do I know about it? Yes. Do I believe in that? No," said Hawk.

But given the tension and angst among some students, Friday has become a day that some parents are considering just keeping their kids home.

Adriana Sanchez says she'll attend school with her daughter, but it might be different if she wasn't planning to be there.

"I could understand from the perspective of a parent being concerned, especially because of everything that happened last Friday," she said.

Another parent, Melissa Henderson, agreed. It's up to each parent, she said.

"Do not blame them. Keep them home. That's what we're here to do is protect them."

School officials say they understand both perspectives, and were leaving it up to families to make up their own minds.

"I think at most schools, it's going to be fine. It's going to be business as usual," said Hegarty, "If parents choose to keep their kids home, that's a decision that they can make."

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