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Substitute teacher concerned school plan doesn’t include them in Lee County

Daily Florida coronavirus cases continue to surge in July, and many hot spots exist in Lee County. This is something substitute teachers — who are largely senior citizens in Lee County — are worried about, as the school district continues to plan the reopening of schools in the fall.

We spoke to a leader of the Lee County Association of Substitute Teachers, who is worried the overall plan at the district doesn’t include them.

“It seems they may have forgotten to include us, except for that they may need us,” said Marvin Goetz, president of the district’s substitute association.

Even after the district decides where teachers will teach this coming school year, school officials will still have more to accomplish before it’s back in session.

Leaders said, traditionally, the district already had a shortage for substitute teachers on average.

Gwyn Gittens, with the Lee County School Board, said there is also the question about how substitutes are supposed to be stationed within the district.

“Then, you talk about spreading germs,” Gittens said. “If I’m a substitute at this elementary school today, then this high school, how do you know I’m not a carrier?”

As Gittens put it, subs are usually subs for a reason — their age, their health issues or their family’s health issues.

Goetz is an active substitute teacher. At 86 years old, he’s concerned and worries about fellow teachers and the decisions they might have to make for themselves.

“Fearful most subs will not come back for the amount of money that they offer,” Goetz said. “It’s not worth it.”

Goetz said the average age of a Lee County substitute is at least 65.

Adding insult to injury, not only are the subs at a higher risk, they’re also feeling out of the loop.

“Is the district going to supply sanitizer, or are they on their own? Gloves? Masks?” Goetz said. “Are they gonna keep kids six feet apart? We don’t know because we were never included in the task force.”

So, in a meeting with that task force, Gittens asked, “Are they going to get hazard pay? Are you going to train them?”

And that’s not knowing how many subs will work, not knowing who will teach your kids and if the subs stay home.

That’s why Gittens said she’s not yet fully on board with the school board’s new plan.

“The skeleton of that plan and how it can work is good,” Gittens said. “But you did not have enough meat in that to tell me.”

And it’s why Goetz said he will stay home.

“At this point, I do not plan on returning,” he said.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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