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Students, teachers return to classrooms after break

By Staff | Aug 10, 2011

Yes, school is back in session. Parents and students attend a back-to-school open house Aug. 4 at The Sanibel School.

Young students and their parents patiently searched for the right classroom at The Sanibel School’s recent open house.

Teachers, parents and students gathered on Aug. 4 for the back-to-school open house because Lee County started classes on Monday, two weeks earlier than usual. Due to the district’s high-performing designation from the state, it had the option to begin school prior to the Aug. 22 start date in Florida.

“We knew it was going to be a short summer,” said Sanibel School principal Barbara Von Harten. “We took steps to prepare and are excited to have the kids return.”

Lee is one of 13 high-performing school districts in Florida given the option to start early. The district received an “A” for the third consecutive year, a recognition based primarily on student achievement. But the early start comes with mixed reviews. Parents who work full time are ready to have their child safely back in school, but others think the summer was cut short.

“It was a pretty short summer,” said Kerry Frey, whose daughter, Elle, is a second grader. “But we still had time to go on vacation.”

Paul Tritaik pushes his son, Liam, on the swing at The Sanibel School’s playground following an open house. Liam is a kindergartner and excited to take a big swing at his first school year.

Teachers say going back to school early will hopefully better prepare students for exams. Some students are ready to return to the classroom, while others are not ready to give up the fun, homework-free days of summer.

“I want children to gain a sense of learning,” said third grade teacher Annie Franke, who is in her 17th year of teaching.

Starting two weeks earlier means the semester will end prior to winter break, allowing students to wrap up exams and other projects before leaving for the two-week break. It also means there are two additional weeks to prepare for the important standardized tests, such as FCAT.

“I think in the long run it’s better to finish before the winter break,” noted Von Harten.

Writing will be infused throughout this year’s curriculum at The Sanibel School, the principal added. Teachers will receive professional development and strategies on learning to perfect the craft. Over the summer, teachers were trained on the implementation of the district’s newly adopted science program National Geographic. It is based on the rewritten Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in Science.

Anna Willis and Anicca Sivsov are excited to return to school for second grade. The girls attended The Sanibel School’s recent open house with their parents to visit their new classroom and meet their teacher.

“I have a passion for science,” said Franke. “I was a science lab instructor for four years and my father was a college science teacher.”

With the early start to the school year, some were concerned about the tax-free holiday, when the state waves the sales tax on clothes, footwear and certain accessories selling for $75 or less and on certain school supplies selling for $15 or less. The tax-free holiday is Aug. 12-14 one week after school has resumed. But the district is giving all students a one-week grace period to buy their school supplies, so parents can still shop the tax-free holiday.

“We don’t want to penalize families just because we’re heading back a week early,” stated Lee schools Superintendent Joseph Burke in a press release.

The last day of school in Lee County is set for May 24. In Collier County, students don’t return to the classrooms until Aug. 22, but the school year won’t end until June 6 for them.