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Students return to class via virtual learning

By Staff | Mar 31, 2020

Principal Charles Vilardia

As communities strive to contain the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak by adhering to social distancing guidelines, Lee County students got back to work hitting the books this week – from their homes.

On March 30, students at The Sanibel School joined the rest of the School District of Lee County in returning to class through distance learning and online instruction. Using Google Classrooms, teachers are holding class from their safety of their residence, while students are following along from theirs.

“Everyone is going to be home, students and teachers,” Sanibel Principal Charles Vilardi said.

The last few weeks, the district and schools have been helping staff prepare for the switch to distance learning. Students not already assigned a Chromebook have been given one to work on from home.

“Staff and I passed out over 80 Chromebooks – and that’s just to elementary students,” he said, explaining that the middle-schoolers are assigned a Chromebook upon entering sixth grade.

“They’re used to theirs, they’ve used it every day,” Vilardi added of the older island youths.

He reported that this first week will serve as a test week for students and staff.

“We’ll check and see how everyone is doing – make sure they’re not overwhelmed with too much work,” Vilardi said. “The following week, we’ll look at grading and assignments.”

The students are expected to work up to 30 minutes per subject.

“We’re only assigning a couple of hours of work to each student,” he said, pointing to families with more than one school-age child in the household. “So if they have to share a computer at home, they can get this done without affecting the family’s schedule too much.”

Teachers will be available via phone or email for assistance.

“Teachers will be available to contact for questions,” Vilardi said. “They will respond within 24 hours.”

Staff – and families – are encouraged to use Zoom, a video and audio screen-sharing application.

“Every teacher has that available to them. Some will use that and some won’t – it’s up to them,” he said. “I just think it’s really crucial that they (the students) can see their classmates.”

Elective teachers are also playing a part to stay connected and keep youths engaged.

“They have provided a list of activities and ideas for parents to do with their kids at home, to get the kids outside if possible,” Vilardi said, adding that the recommendations promote health and getting outside for some sun. “Those are optional for parents if they want to use that. So those are provided.”

Those activities and ideas can be found on the school’s Website at SBL.leeschools.net. The site also features a video from him to parents and students, resources to help keep children busy and more.

Staff is available to address any emotional issues a student is having.

“If families have any needs, they can contact my guidance counselor directly,” he said.

As of last week, the district was hoping to have all students back at school on April 15.

“That will depend on how things go,” Vilardi said.

He noted that all state testing for students has been canceled for the year.

“So parents don’t have to worry about that,” Vilardi said.

While the school’s office lobby is closed to the public for the health of the office staffers and the administration, the office is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is available at 239-472-1617.

“The custodial crew is busy deep cleaning all classrooms,” he said, adding that it is also getting work orders completed during the downtime like fixing doorknobs and adding new microphones to the stage.

Vilardi encouraged the school’s families to stay safe and remain healthy.

“Continue to wash your hands and continue your social distancing from others,” he said.

For more information, visit SBL.leeschools.net. Families can also visit the Lee County School District’s Website at leeschools.net for more information, including its “Distance Learning Plan.”