By Mrs. Cathleen Morgan
At the School District of Lee County (SDLC), we know two things: public education will resume in August and teaching and learning for many students, teachers, families and employees will look different. Education Commissioner Corcoran mandated that students be able to return to ‘brick and mortar’ public schools, and Governor DeSantis gave responsibility to local school districts for reconvening public education as local conditions warranted.
We all want children in school. We know learning happens best when teachers and students are together in the classroom. We know families want to return to work and families with know that schools are safe and a safety net, providing not only opportunities to learn, but also healthy meals, and social/emotional support. To that end, SDLC is providing a Full-Time, Face-To-Face option for students ready to return to school.
But, evidence that the Covid 19 pandemic is not contained worries many in the Lee County community. The risks associated with contracting the virus and becoming very ill are of great concern to at-risk SDLC employees and families. Recognizing the need to provide other options for rebooting public education locally, Superintendent Adkins convened a Reopening Schools Task Force made up of SDLC community members and local leaders. They were tasked with identifying options to in-school teaching and learning. After considerable deliberation, they recommended supplementing the Full-time Face-to-Face model with three at-home teaching and learning models. One model is new: Lee Home Connect—live, synchronous virtual instruction. In addition to Lee Virtual School (self-paced virtual instruction) and Homeschooling, that provides families with three at-home educational options.
For those choosing to return to the ‘brick and ‘mortar’ classroom, the conditions to which they will return is of greatest concern. Again, SDLC staff has worked tirelessly to model what a student day will look like from home to school and home again, to describe how the classroom and movement about the school will be different, to describe complicated strategies for sanitizing classrooms and schools, and to outline responsibility and accountability for unexpected contingencies. Safety measures include, but are not limited to use of masks, social distancing, and temperature checks. Supplies of sanitizing equipment, acquired at significant additional cost to the District, and procedures for use are in place. Teachers and staff are trained in new classroom/school cleaning and maintenance procedures designed to minimize risks of contagion. Principals know what to do if a child or teacher becomes ill; the Lee County Health Department is responsible for contract-tracing cases and alerting those who may have been exposed to the virus; the Superintendent is authorized to close classrooms or schools if necessary.
Bottom Line: Working diligently, aggressively, and strategically, SDLC is providing safe, rigorous, comprehensive, educational program opportunities for all students. Together, with the support and participation of the East Lee Community, the school year will be different, but great nevertheless.