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Officials: school year off to a good start

By Staff | Aug 8, 2011

The first day of school was an overall success for the Lee County School District, according to Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke, who spent the day visiting schools, one of which was in Cape Coral, along with making sure the buses got off to a good start Monday morning.

“It has been a good day,” Burke said about the first day of school. “I was encouraged by what I saw.”

Before making his first stop at South Fort Myers High School, Burke stopped by the south transportation depot at 5 a.m. Monday. He said he spoke with some of the bus drivers and waved as they left the depot.

“Most of the drivers showed up today,” Burke said.

After leaving the depot, he arrived at South Fort Myers High School around 7 a.m., about 15 minutes before the start of the school day.

Burke said he visited many classrooms at South Fort Myers High School, which mainly included STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses. Out of the 30 buses that drop off students at the high school, Burke said only a few were about 15 minutes late due to the parent drop-off traffic.

The enrollment for the high school, Burke said, was up 300 students from the previous year, which was encouraging.

His tour also included visiting with parents and students at Tice Elementary School, eating lunch with students at Colonial Elementary School and visiting classrooms at Trafalgar Middle School.

After visiting the schools, Burke said he believes the district’s enrollment is going to be up this year, which is a good thing. All of the schools were expected to call in their enrollment counts to the district by noon on Monday.

He said it was important for him to visit some of the schools on the first day because it gives him a feel of what the school year will be like.

Trafalgar Middle School Principal Dr. Angela Pruitt said she was excited that Burke visited her school Monday.

She said the first day of school went great due to the buses and parents dropping off their kids on time.

Pruitt said although it was much tougher to get the facility ready this summer for the first day of school, it was definitely worth it.

“It allows us to get first semester exams out of the way,” she said about the early start. “It is much cleaner. We love it.”

The middle school has a capacity of 850 students, which Pruitt anticipates will be reached after Labor Day.

On Monday, there were only 30 students missing from the 848 students enrolled, which she said were most likely 7th grade students that did not have their shot records.

Pruitt said she is happy with only 30 students missing, especially since school began two weeks early.

Nine years ago, Trafalgar Middle School had 1,500 students enrolled, with 20 portables located in the back of the campus. Pruitt said when Challenger Middle School opened, they were able to cut the number of students in half.

The students visited seven classrooms Monday, instead of four, due to the elimination of block schedules.

For the past two years, the students at Trafalgar Middle had block schedules, which changed this year to seven periods after many conversations among the staff.

Students were in one class for 83 minutes last year when they had a block schedule. This year, with seven periods, the students will be in one class for 47 minutes.

Pruitt said when she looked at how many minutes a student was in a class during a block schedule, it showed her that by offering seven periods the students gained six days of academic instruction by taking their core classes every day instead of every other day.

Instead of a student being in a class for 83 minutes every other day with block scheduling, the student now is in a class for 94 minutes every two days.

Pruitt said this year, as a school-wide effort, all of her teachers will incorporate reading and writing into their lesson plans to continue to improve the students skills.

“You can always do better with reading and writing,” she said.

Although Trafalgar Middle School has always done great with its reading and writing FCAT scores, Pruitt said she wants to stay on top of it and stay focused because the students’ skills will slip away slowly due to texting and social media outlets where words are abbreviated.