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Lee School board to discuss delaying start date

By Staff | Jul 21, 2020

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins says the start of school should be delayed to Aug. 24, or Aug. 31 and he will present that recommendation to the Lee County School Board on Thursday.

The special action meeting will be broadcast live at www.youtube.com/leeschoolstv at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 23.

District spokesperson Rob Spicker said a calendar committee meeting was held Monday to discuss the delayed reopening.

Spicker said the committee, made up of staff and parents, came up with a calendar, which will be presented to the board on Thursday. The board, then, will decide they want to proceed, either Aug. 24, or Aug. 31.

“The board will have to approve the calendar,” Spicker said.

The first day of school was originally set for Aug. 10.

Adkins said in a podcast that the best way for children to receive an education is in front of a high quality teacher, which really can only be done at a brick-and-mortar school. While students have done a great job of learning virtually, and it’s a great model the district can continue to improve, there is nothing like being in front of a high quality teacher, he said.

In addition, there are many services that they provide at school, such as social and emotional learning, meals and, in some cases, getting students health care.

“It is very difficult to do that in a virtual setting,” Adkins said. “I think we need that social interaction with kids and teachers. Their friends, they need to see their friends.”

With this said, with safety precautions having to be in place due to COVID-19, the start of school may be a little bumpy.

“This is not going to go smoothly at the beginning of the year, so do not expect it to go smoothly. Quite honestly, we have to be flexible and agile. There are going to be people that get diagnosed with this at some point, it is already happening in society. We are going to have to be able to close down a classroom and go virtual learning very quickly and then flex and come back and bring that classroom back on line when we have gone through the proper quarantine period,” Adkins said.

The district has a task force that is assigned to do this and will be communicating with parents and have constant contact with the Department of Health to make sure the proper protocols are being done.

“I can see us closing down individual classrooms in some cases. There may be a situation where we have to close an entire school. Hopefully we won’t have to do a district closure to virtual again, but that could happen and we have to be prepared for all of it,” Adkins said.

The closure of a classroom, or school will be made by the superintendent and his team, local health experts and the board.

Parents are being offered options from which to choose concerning the instructional model they want for their child, once schools reopen. Those models include face-to-face, Lee Virtual School, Lee Home Connect and Home School.

For those students who will go back to face-to-face learning at the school campus will have to be prepared to wear a mask depending on different circumstances.

Students board a bus to travel to school will be required to wear a mask and will have assigned seats. Masks also will be required in the hallways and are expected to be worn in classrooms and traveling to and from large gathering areas.

Masks will be provided on buses and campuses for those students who do not have one.

Temperatures, which must be below 100.4, will also be taken before the student enters the campus.

“We are also asking our parents to give us a hand here as well. One of the things that you can do as a parent is before that child even leaves your home is make sure that kid does not have a temperature. Make sure they are feeling well. Take that extra effort to check in with your kid and make sure that they are feeling safe. If all of us work together to monitor these health symptoms and take appropriate actions, we will also be better off,” Adkins said.

He said a walker could potentially be running a temperature because it’s hot in Florida and students will be returning to school in August.

“We have to make sure that kid is cooled down before the temperature is taken,” Adkins said. “If we do have a student that is obviously running a temperature after we have done that temperature check, we have to make sure that student is isolated. We have isolation rooms that are going to be set up in our school buildings. From that point forward we are going to be in touch with that parent and that parent comes and picks that student up.”

He also touched upon what kids should expect once entering a school, such as one-direction hallways. There also will be markings on the floor when students will have to wait in line to keep that six feet of appropriate distance.

“We are an educational institution, so if we teach our students, parents and community about how to stay safe, I think we are all going to be healthier as a result of that,” Adkins said. “Proper signage, we are using the opportunity to get the word out in terms of what safe practices are.”

Classrooms also will look different once children return to school.

Adkins said they currently are eliminating all non essential furniture, such as excessive file cabinets and bookshelves, so student desks can be spread out as much as possible. In addition, desks will be in one direction, instead of in groupings.

Lunch will be offered grab-and-go style.

“Our school leaders have to be pretty innovative when feeding our students. They know their buildings the best,” he said adding, that the cafeteria, classrooms, and outside seating areas will be utilized.

Students in middle and high school will experience a staggered change of classes to help in social distancing students.

Some of the highlights of a student’s day, such as recess and P.E., will still occur.

“Recess, kids will still do that with their current class, so you will go out with your class, the group of kids you are with all day,” Adkins said.

In terms of P.E., the district is still going to offer it, but in a way where social distance practices can occur and without equipment.

After school programs and clubs will still be held with safety guidelines in place to keep students and staff safe.

“Right now we are still planning to move forward with sports,” Adkins said. “Some of these contact sports we don’t have a final answer on that yet.”

The podcast also touched upon teachers. Adkins said some of their teachers have medical issues that they are dealing with, are older, or may have a loved one at home that is health compromised.

“When you come into a school house it is a close interaction environment. What steps are you going to take to keep the kids safe, but also the employee safe?” Adkins said. “That’s why we are hoping to provide options for our employees as well. And also provide our employees with the proper protection. For example, we have the face masks that are available, but also the face shield. Some of our teachers will need the extra protection to cover their eyes. Some of our teachers want to be able to have their students be able to see their mouths and the face shield will allow that to happen while still keeping that teacher safe.”

He acknowledged that this will be a different norm for students once they return to school.

“I think this is a very difficult time in all of our lives and we have to make some changes to keep ourselves safe as we move through this pandemic,” Adkins said. “I will tell kids I really think we will be on the other side of this, I really, really do. I’m looking forward to the time where life can get back to normal. Get back to having proms and high school football games and being able to do those hands on labs where everyone is in there and working together. This is only temporarily and we will get to the other side of this together.”