Back to School: Classes start Monday
The 2015-16 school year kicks off for all Lee County public schools on Monday. That means another year of making new friends and creating new memories for more than 90,000 students from grades K-12.
Teachers with the Lee County Public School System reported for duty Monday while administrators were getting schedules and the teachers ready for another year.
Principals were in meetings with their assistants, their teachers and other administrative people to make sure everything runs smoothly come next week.
Many schools offered open houses and “Meet Your Teacher” programs this past week for students and parents, with some schools, such as Littleton and Trafalgar elementary schools offering them today, and Mariner High and Tropic Isles Elementary schools offering them Saturday.
At Gulf Elementary, there was an open house for kindergarteners Wednesday and another for grades 1-5 Thursday, according to Principal Kim Verblaauw.
She said the children she has seen were excited to be back to the routine and that the newest students were already getting a hang of school life.
“The district brought in a school bus for the kids so they can get in it for the first time, which was awesome,” Verblaaw said. “They were already sitting at their desks and walking in lines and saying ‘We can’t wait. Can we stay?'”
Depending on what school you’re at, “getting ready” can entail different things. At Challenger Middle School principal Teri Cannady said all middle-schoolers will be using a Chromebook as their main tool for learning this year.
Cannady said the way the children are learning is changing, and that they need to change along with them.
“That’s our main focus for teachers. Training on the Chromebook and software and technology and creating tools based on the technology,” Cannady said. “It’s a big shift for all of us. Even the textbooks are online, so they’ll have both. In time it will replace the textbook, and that’s Florida Statute, that we’ll move to textbook online.”
At Mariner High School, the Chromebook programs are being piloted this year, with full implementation coming next year. Principal Robert Butz said the teachers are working with software and other new stuff and getting the curriculum together.
Still, Butz expects his students to be able to improve their technological skills, even without the new program.
“We don’t want our students when they come here to tech down, which is typically what happens. We want them to utilize what they’re used to and enhance what they already know,” Butz said.
Mariner’s open house Saturday will feature an Anchor Academy for freshmen, a transitional program, which will teach them everything the school has to offer.
“The first week or two is about getting them acclimated to high school. We want them to learn all the activities. Research has shown those students who are in clubs and activities have a better chance of being successful,” Butz said.
Elementary schools are also equipped with many computers, with kids using Google Drive and Google classroom. There is also a bring your own device policy.
Cape Coral continues to grow by leaps and bounds and finds its streets busier than ever, there is even more reason for caution.
For high school students, it means waiting for the bus in the dark. For elementary and middle school youths, it means waiting for the bus during the peak of rush hour.
Amity Chandler, communications director for Lee County Public Schools, said it’s important to teach children about safety and things to look out for.
“Our buses are on the road from 5:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. (that doesn’t include high school sports teams traveling to and from games), and there are almost always children on those buses,” Chandler said. “If it’s daylight out, there’s a child out.”
One of the biggest changes this year will be that most area schools will be serving free lunch to all its students. Out of the 84 county schools, 77 will serve free lunch.
Locally, only Ida Baker and North Fort Myers high schools will not offer the program, but parents can still file applications for free or reduced lunches.
Cannady, as most principals, is glad this is happening, as it eliminates the stigma kids may have by receiving free lunch.
“When kids are in elementary school they don’t think about it, but by middle school, kids care what others think. Kids are perceptive. Now, nobody knows,” Cannady said.
Come Monday, Butz said his school would be ready.
“We’ve got an excited group of teachers looking forward to building relationships. When we look back, we don’t remember how they taught us, but how they treated us.”