Lee County School Board moves first day of school to August 31

The Lee County School Board voted to push back the first day of school to Aug. 31, with the end date being June 17, 2021, during its meeting Thursday.

That means you’ll have more time to make the tough decision as to how your student will learn this fall.

The board talked about the pros and cons for more than an hour before voting unanimously to move the start of school back to Aug. 31.

One mom from Cape Coral told the district changing the start date creates hardship for a lot of parents including those who have kids with special needs as she does.

“He needs his services back and the school district isn’t helping him,” said Angie Nichols. “The school board and Doctor Adkins have had five months to develop a plan for putting our kids back in school safely and now they need two or three more weeks? It’s completely unacceptable and shows a lack of leadership.”

The board ultimately agreed they need the extra time to prepare for this unusual school year. They also decided to give more time for parents to decide whether to send their kids to school or choose a virtual option. The deadline for that is now July 30.

In an exclusive interview with the superintendent earlier this week, he said delaying the start date gives them another opportunity to work on guidelines to reopen, and hopefully, by then we’ll see a downward trend of this virus.

Two teachers that spoke with WINK News agree it helps them get safety measures in place.

But those teachers are also mothers, and from a parent’s perspective, they could see the delay causing problems for parents who work full-time and will now have to scramble to find childcare.

“I think that’s a big problem; I can see it from all points of view. I’m lucky enough to have family in the area so I can make it work. But I have a lot of friends that do not. So how do people make a living? What can they do when they don’t have a place to put their kids? Those are all those questions that there’s really no good answer for,” said one mother and teacher who wants to remain anonymous.

We also talked to three students who crave the classroom experience, but they each have different ideas on what the safest choice is for them.

“We are really just playing it by ear right now but I do want to go virtual,” said Allison McClary, a freshman at North Fort Myers High School.

Another student felt they can return safely if they just follow the guidelines.

“I feel like we all should go back to school as long as we follow all of the rules,” said Ashlynn Watkins, a junior at Riverdale High School.

Some families like Jodi Johnson’s are officially in back-to-school mode.

“I think that they’ll get a better education when they’re in the classroom,” Johnson said.

But the Johnson’s daughter like every Lee County student will step foot in a very different classroom. Johnson said none of her daughter’s friends plan to go to in-person classes.

“So it’s a little sad,” Johnson said. “But she still wants to go back.”

Even with the delay, many families are worried.

“School benefits her so much,” Michelle McAdams-Origer said. “But then I take this risk of sending her back to school, and she could catch something, and it could make her very sick.”

McAdams-Origer, a mother of three, told us she is still scrambling to prepare no matter when school starts but says the classroom is their best option.

“We have to do in person because our youngest one is special ed,” McAdams-Origer said. “He needs a professional teacher that can guide him better than I can on a computer.”

We spoke to teachers and a counselor about the updated plans by the school board.

“I feel positive about the plan,” said Eva Ruiz, a teacher for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. “I think it shows how adaptable the district is.”

“Level of safety measures that are being put in place that make us all feel a lot better,” said Carolyn Staehle, a second-grade teacher at Allen Park Elementary School.

“I heard words like flexible, safety, masks, safety,” said Susan Patti, a school counselor at Allen Park Elementary. “I’m very, very encouraged.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday shared a message of hope for students. He reminded them they are the future of Florida and they will be given the chance to reach their full potential.

Reporter:Michelle Mackonochie
Anika Henanger
Nicole Lauren
Writer:WINK News
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