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First day of the new year a success at The Sanibel School

By Staff | Aug 10, 2018

TIFFANY REPECKI Faculty at The Sanibel School line the halls and wave goodbye to their students on Aug. 10 as the first day of the new school year wraps up.

Nearly 300 students marked the start of the new school year on Aug. 10 at The Sanibel School.

“The day went very smooth,” Principal Chuck Vilardi said. “No complaints.”

About 290 students are enrolled in the island school for the 2018-2019 year, approximately 20 fewer than the year before. He explained that the decrease is partly attributed to students moving away.

“Also, our middle school kids moved on to high school,” Vilardi said.

The Sanibel School covers kindergarten through eighth grade.

TIFFANY REPECKI Seven new faculty members have joined the school. They are, from left, Greg Berganon, JP Martin, Michelle Heuck, Linda Cummings, Mina Socarras-Daegling, Daryl Peters and Joseph Camputaro.

While the day itself went without a hitch, the morning kick off was a bit different. He explained that a baby alligator was found near the school’s back office just as the children were beginning to arrive.

Vilardi said staff contacted local wildlife officials, who came and removed the animal.

For the first day, faculty goes over the school’s rules, procedures and such with the students.

“And try to build a sense of community in the classroom,” he said.

This week, the recently promoted middle-schoolers will undergo orientation, receive their assigned Chromebooks and learn about being part of the “older” student body – a rite of passage, of sorts.

TIFFANY REPECKI Assistant Principle Jamie Reid helps a student in bus area at the end of the first day.

“It makes them feel special,” Vilardi said.

This year, seven new faculty members have joined the team. He explained that as staffers assigned to multiple subjects are leaving or retiring, he is bringing in new people and breaking apart the duties.

“I’m giving them one thing, so everybody has their own speciality,” Vilardi said.

The new staff includes:

– Greg Bergano, Exceptional Student Education

TIFFANY REPECKI Vehicles line up in the parent pick-up line for the first time on Aug. 10 following the summer break.

– Joseph Camputaro, fourth grade

– Linda Cummings, speech and language

– Michelle Heuck, gifted

– JP Martin, English language arts

– Daryl Peters, kindergarten

Principal Chuck Vilardi

– Mina Socarras-Daegling, Spanish

Martin and Socarras-Daegling both arrived from Varsity Lakes Middle School in Lehigh Acres. Socarras-Daegling explained that she had thought about retiring, but then the opportunity presented itself to work on-island and she could not say no. Martin was previously an instructional coach.

“It was very productive,” he said of how his first day went.

For the new year, the school will expand upon its STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – activities that it jumpstarted last year, as well as its robotics and coding programming.

“It’s to make the robots move,” Vilardi said of writing code.

Over the summer, it was named a 2018-2019 Leader In Me School by Franklin Covey.

The innovative model was implemented last year by Vilardi, who had had it in place at his previous school. Not really a curriculum or instructional method, it centers on Dr. Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Happy Kids” – a spin-off from his original book, titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

“So when teachers came back, they were welcomed to that,” he said.

There are a few new features this year for students and parents countywide.

Rob Spicker, spokesperson for the Lee County School District, said the first is the Where’s the Bus app. It allows parents to know how far their child’s bus is from their stop in the morning and the afternoon.

“This should eliminate a lot of confusion and improve efficiency,” he said.

Another feature, School Messenger, is a new app that will improve communication.

“Our teachers have new curriculum maps that gives them the resources to build lessons aligned to our standards and helping students reach those academic standards,” Spicker said.

To help students achieve their academic potential, all 79 district schools and 17 special centers – including The Sanibel School – will offer free breakfast and lunch. It used to be just one meal.

Safety is another high priority this year for the school district.

Spicker noted that there will be a school resource officer in every school, with Red Lock doors to be installed in each one before the year is over. Sanibel already had the system in place and an SRO.

“We’re already in lockdown every day,” Vilardi said.

However, one upgrade will be a video entrance system, which will go in all schools.

“The goal is by the end of the year,” he said of.

According to Spicker, the system works by visitors having to press a button at the door and then announce who they are and why they are there, before they can be admitted into the building.

“These are in high demand after Parkland, so they are being installed in batches as they arrive,” he said.

Another difference from last year is the number of lockdown drills. Vilardi explained that the school held two annually but now they will be held monthly, with two scheduled in the first two weeks.

“We feel the better prepared our teachers and students are for a crisis, the safer they’ll be and the better they’ll react,” he said.

According to the school district, the district-wide enrollment projection for the 2018-2019 year is 95,052 students – 3,364 more students than last year. The attendance figure will be different than the projected enrollment, as it typically drops about 2,000 students once a 10-day count is conducted.

– Meghan McCoy contributed to the article.