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School options surveys next step in reopening in Lee County

School District of Lee County hosted a press conference on its school reopening plan Thursday.

The next step falls on Lee County parents and guardians of students. They will receive a survey next week to choose how they want their kids to learn in the fall. That will tell the District where it needs to allocate teachers and resources.

The four learning options include:

  • Send kids back to school five days a week
  • Enroll them in virtual school
  • Home school them
  • Enroll them in a new program “Lee Home Connect”

There is a fifth option on the table for distance learning, but school officials say that will only be used if a school is shut down based on recommendations from the county health department.

As for kids returning to the classroom, the District says there will be a number of safety protocols in place, including masks on buses and in places where social distancing is a challenge. There will also be temperature checks and frequent deep cleanings of the facilities. District leaders are also looking at the best way to keep students at least six feet apart while in the classroom.

“So removing that extra equipment, that extra furniture and making sure that we spread desks out as much as we possibly can,” Superintendent Greg Adkins said. “We also want to look at utilizing other spaces like large spaces that can be used as classroom spaces. And we are also encouraging the use of outdoor classrooms.”

And the District is planning to spend millions of dollars to keep kids safe this year. That includes utilizing personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

“With our student population of over 83,000 students at our traditional schools, we are estimating an expenditure at this point of somewhere around $15 million,” said Ami Desamours, the District’s CFO.

That’s the total amount being budgeted in the event all students were to return to in-person classes.

“We can’t do that,” said Lloyd Duhon, who has three kids at Lee County schools. “The safety is just not there yet.”

Duhon told us he has family members with compromised immune systems, so he’s leaning toward an online option for his kids.

“Kudos to the school board for continuing to move this in the best direction they can with this crazy circumstance we’re living with,” Duhon said.

Mother Sandra Stubblefield looks at recently canceled graduations and wonders how school can resume safely.

“This was deemed a big enough issue to literally wipe out an entire quarter of our learning process last year,” Stubblefield said. “It seems like we’re seeing a constant uptick.”

Stubblefield says she might feel better about sending her daughter back if she could see the changes in person.

“I think they need to take and say, ‘Freshmen come in on this day and sophomores this day’ and stagger it out,” Stubblefield said. “But show everybody the safety precautions and have us take part in that so we understand what’s going on, so we can explain it to our kids.”

For other parents, they’re more optimistic considering the mask requirements, temperature checks and social distancing.

The District says it’s also looking at removing furniture from some classrooms to make more space or moving classes outside.

We also heard from the school board during the press conference. Board members will be working to close the achievement gap for students who have fallen behind because of the pandemic. They say baseline tests will be done once students return, and they will compare that with where students were prior to the pandemic.

Testing will show what kind of help is needed to get students back on track.

Visit the school district’s YouTube page to watch.

Ken Savage, the District’s chief operations officer, shared details about the cleaning process that will be implemented at schools in the District.

“One of the most significant aspects is to increase the level of cleaning in our surfaces … Areas that are touched frequently by students or staff will be cleaned with much greater frequency than we currently do,” Savage said.

Custodians will also be on a staggered schedule to increase the amount of cleaning that can be accomplished at schools during the day, Savage said.

“So, rather than expecting teachers to take on that burden of cleaning, custodians will also be able to help with that and assist it at increased frequency, ” Savage said.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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