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School superintendent appoints reopening task force

By Staff | Jun 4, 2020

Looking ahead to the new school year, School District of Lee County Superintendent Greg Adkins has appointed a PreK-12 Education Pandemic Response Task Force.

Comprised of 24 individuals that span from health professionals to students, the panel will examine the safest ways to keep students and staff healthy, while providing the most equitable education once school resumes in August, officials said,.

District spokesperson Rob Spicker said the task force, which has an interesting makeup of health professionals, board liaison, school resource officers, parents, students and principals, will provide advice to the district regarding how to safely open schools in August. He said district chiefs and executive directors will work with the task force to provide information.

The Task Force members are:

* School District of Lee County School Board Member Betsy Vaughn;

* Dr. Mary Beth Saunders of Infectious Disease/Epidemiology of Lee Health;

* Florida Department of Health, Lee County Executive Community Health Nursing Director Char-Nequa Smith (Shay);

* Lee County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Youth Services Division Lt. Angel Queipo;

* Operations Division Fort Myers Police Department Captain Jason Fields;

* FineMark National Bank & Trust, Lee County President Harlan Parrish;

* Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President & CEO Marshall Bower;

* Lee County Housing Authority Executive Director Marcus Goodson;

* City of Fort Myers Housing Authority Community Development Director Isaac Dozier;

* Teachers Association of Lee County President Kevin Daly;

* Support Personal of Lee County President Jamie Michael;

* Dunbar High School Principal Carl Burnside;

* Bonita Springs Middle Center for the Arts Principal Melissa Layner;

* Manatee Elementary School Principal Scott LeMaster;

* District Advisory Committee President Scott Hertz;

* Parent Representative for West Zone Amy-Jane McWilliam;

* Parent Representative for West Zone Brenda Clark;

* Parent Representative for South Zone Angela Haas;

* Parent Representative for South Zone Chrystal Vervaet;

* Parent Representative for East Zone Jacqueline Lineberger;

* East Zone Parent Representative Jewelene Harris;

* Mariner High School, West Zone, student representative Brooklyn Gossett;

* Bonita Springs High School, South Zone, student representative Sedona Stewart;

* Lehigh Senior High School, East Zone, student representative Yamicil Bermudez

The PreK-12 Education Pandemic Response Task Force will meet throughout the summer to discuss four guiding principals equitable education, public health and safety; public confidence and fiscal responsibility.

“I’m looking forward to getting their input because we’ve got a lot of important decisions to make,” Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said in a prepared statement. “It’s is going to be very important for us to get out in front of the public quite a bit over the course of the summer to communicate our plans and get feedback.”

The task force will also assist in planning for three scenarios if the district cannot proceed with a full reopening of schools in August. Those scenarios include full time distance learning; combination of in-person and online classes and full return to campus with safety measures in place.

Spicker said they anticipate the task force will meet weekly during the summer and provide their first preliminary recommendation to the board as early as the June 23 meeting.

The meetings will be conducted privately because it is a superintendent task force, he said, but the videos will be posted to the district’s YouTube channel 24 to 48 hours later, so the community can hear the conversation.

Spicker said the task force has a lot to look at, due to the scope of what the district is facing over the next 10 weeks of summer. He said some of the conversations will revolve around how much space the district has and what that means in social distancing for classroom setup, the cafeteria, gym and bus — how to modify bus routes if necessary.

“If we have a hybrid model, how do we set that up so we have students learning online, at schools,” Spicker said, adding that how will students be coming to school, in split shifts, every other day. “There is a lot to consider.”

In addition, the discussion will also include how the district sticks within their budget, due to the concerns about what the funding will look like during the next school year.

The district, Spicker said is also seeking the community’s input through its School Reintroduction Survey, which can be found at https://bit.ly/3dzqCmb. So far the survey has shared that parents want to make sure that schools are disinfected and cleaned before returning to school.

They also have an email set up, so parents can communicate their thoughts, concerns, ideas and suggestions to make them feel comfortable to send their students to school in August. That email is ReopeningSchools@leeschools.net. Those emails will be shared with the task force, school board and superintendent.

“We have 10 weeks of summer,” Spicker said. “We need to know by the end of July. We have two months to know what school is going to look like in the fall.”

In addition, he said the district also is waiting for the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Health for their recommendations for a safe opening of schools.

Spicker said it is all a fluid situation, what recommendations are made in July could change in August and September.

“It could be a fluid fall in terms of how school develops,” he said, adding that school could start one way and transition into another. “We will use this task force for advice and community feedback and develop a plan to follow guidelines to make sure students, staff and visitors are safe. We have to prepare for all types of scenarios.”