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State’s plan returns students to classroom with safety protocols

Gov. Ron DeSantis says he wants to get everyone back to class in the fall, but it’s going to be a gradual process over the summer. And parents are divided about the plan. Some wonder if their child will be behind or worry their child will get sick at school.

“There’s just not going to be a substitute for that in-person instruction,” DeSantis said.

The state’s plan to return students to school includes a long list of safety protocols. That includes keeping groups of kids together throughout the day, extra deep cleanings and plans for when a student does get sick.

But, as we’re hearing from local parents, many are still split on whether they feel comfortable sending their kids back to school. Some students have fallen behind while distance learning.

DeSantis created a three-step plan: Reopen schools now for summer camps and activities; increase capacity for instruction next month; then, reopen schools in the fall.

“My biggest concerns right now about sending my children back to school is the social distancing,” said Alicia Pullen, whose children attend Lee County schools.

The state is recommending spreading out desks as much as possible, but it’s also allowing local districts to come up with their own plans based off these guidelines and after consulting local health departments.

“As a family, I believe our option will be to do online schooling for at least the next year,” Pullen said.

The School District of Lee County is working on multiple options for getting kids back in class but allowing kids to keep learning from home if parents don’t feel safe.

“They are going above and beyond to try to accommodate every student because everybody learns differently,” Pullen said.

We spoke to other parents who have worked full-time jobs through the pandemic.

“We didn’t have a lot of free time,” said Jeni Herman, who has three children at Lee County schools. “We just were scrambling at the end of the day, trying to get everybody to do their stuff.”

Herman said she worries about her kids falling behind if they’re not back in the classrooms.

I did worry about that, absolutely, especially because they weren’t getting face-to-face instruction,” Herman said.

We asked local districts what they thought about this new plan.

Lee County says many of the recommendations are similar to proposals it’s already discussing.

Collier County Public Schools says it’s still discussing the new recommendations, and its start date is still scheduled for August 12.

Charlotte County Public Schools said in a statement: “Superintendent Steve Dionisio’s staff has been meeting several times a week for several months working on a variety of plans for reopening our schools.

“We are prepared to be in compliance with the rules, laws, and mandates sent down to us from Tallahassee. In every instance and situation, we will act in the best interest of our students and staff to provide the safest and most educational sound program possible.”

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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