School resumes on islands
Students returned to The Sanibel School last week, kicking off the start of a new school year.
Principal Chuck Vilardi reported that 310 youths are enrolled for 2019-2020, as compared to 265 students last year. Seeing a decline in enrollment in recent years due to new families not moving to the islands and others moving away, the school’s PTA and foundation focused over the summer on getting the word out about the school’s waiver program. It enables island employees’ children to register.
“We took a lot of waivers this year,” he said.
Vilardi noted that tours for families were also provided throughout the summer.
“So we kept the school up,” he said.
Some of the approximately 40 new students are from families that are new to the area.
“They weren’t aware of the opportunity to do that,” Vilardi said of the waiver.
Others transferred from schools in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and more.
“They really have come from the gamut of Lee County,” he said.
Vilardi added that the school allowed only a certain number of waiver enrollments to ensure the students would be able to return for their consecutive years and complete their education on-island.
Prior to students returning to the school on Aug. 12, the administration, faulty and staff returned the week before. During announcements on the first day, Vilardi and Assistant Principal Jamie Reid shared that the National Blue Ribbon K-8 school received the top test score for Lee County for 2018-2019.
“A lot of the credit goes to the students, as well as the faculty and staff, and the parents,” he said.
Vilardi reported that 99 percent of last year’s youths were tested, with gains made in the areas of English Language Arts Learning, English Language Arts L25 LG, Math Proficiency, Math LG, Math L25 LG, Science, and MS Acceleration. There were only two areas where the students scored lower than the prior year: one point in English Language Arts Proficiency, four points in Social Studies.
He noted that the students earned 84 percent of the total possible points, raising the school’s overall score from 698 to 760. Out of 900 points, 760 was the highest for the Lee County School District. Out of the 2,200 participating schools in the state, the 760 score placed Sanibel in the top 50 for Florida.
“I was very excited and also surprised,” Vilardi said of the results.
He explained that the goal was to make it back into the “700 club.”
“So when it came out at 760, I was elated,” Vilardi said.
He noted that the scores were not at 100 percent, however, so there is room for improvement.
For the 2019-2020 year, the school theme is “Success is a journey, not a destination.”
Vilardi explained that one objective for the new school year is to increase the students’ scores in the areas of language arts and science, while continuing with their strong growth in the area of math.
There are a handful of new staff members, including: John Petrocy, physical education; Erica Sharp, arts; Kelly Johnson, STEM and technology; and Kathy Harris, clinic assistant. In addition, first-grade teacher Laura Wolf who was not expected to return full-time is back and will teach kindergarten.
“The new teachers are just thrilled to be teaching at a school of such high caliber,” he said.
Some of the new things going on this year include the school’s use of virtual teaching for Spanish instruction and the STEM and robotics program. The Spanish teachers visited the campus and helped get the students set up. The classes will simply involve the teachers live streaming via a computer.
For the STEM and robotics program, which will consist of a lot of coding, Johnson has discussed building underwater robots with the students, conducting experiments with oysters and water quality, and more. Vilardi noted that the intent is for the work to be relevant to the islands and community.
“To help support some of the work that can be done,” he said.
The Leader in Me and 7 Habits of Highlight Effective People initiative is being continued.
“It’s a good set of principles for them to follow through to adulthood,” Vilardi said.
“It’s giving them the skills,” he added.
As for the first day and first week of the new year, things went smoothly.
“It’s gone very well and each day gets better and better,” Vilardi said.
He explained that a change to the parent pick-up policy did put a hiccup in the regular flow of the process for the first couple of days, but the change is to improve safety. Parents must remain in their vehicle while a faculty member puts the child in the car; they can no longer get out and grab them.
“So it just keeps things very safe,” he said of the adjustment.
Vilardi also extended the school’s thanks to police and fire for helping on the first day.
For more about the school, call 239-472-1617 or visit sbl.leeschools.net.
The Sanibel School is at 3840 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel.