Lee County reviewing schools’ COVID-19 protocols

Lee County schools are tackling two issues: preparing for your children heading back to class (all new teachers met for the first time this morning) and keeping them safe as the delta variant of COVID-19 surges, especially among the unvaccinated. The Lee County School Board will discuss safety protocols Monday.

With the spread of the delta variant, the voices of those in favor of more action against COVID-19 seem to be getting louder. The School District of Lee County says two of the things most demanded by parents who want stricter COVID-19 protocols are the requirements of masks and quarantining.

While many parents are glad to see their children return to some sense of normalcy, those in families who have underlying conditions insist that they deserve to know when their child has been exposed to COVID-19. Some say that while they try to encourage their child to wear a mask to protect vulnerable family members, other students treat them differently for doing so.

Masks will be voluntary this school year but will be encouraged for unvaccinated students and staff.

Bringing back Lee Connect, the district’s virtual option from last year, is something a lot of parents are interested in as cases rise.

“We know how detrimental distance learning can be for… especially certain demographics of our students,” said Gwyn Gittens, Lee County School Board member. “And we are trying to help catch them up from that situation last year. So, just praying that we don’t have to do that again.”

Board members admit that while they can’t predict what’s going to happen, should things escalate even more in the future, they may be forced to reevaluate. Right now, though, they say the hope is that it never comes to that, and that the focus can be on keeping kids in the classrooms and helping them overcome any learning gaps that formed last year.

Lee County parent Deborah Melnick says her family got COVID-19 after her child was exposed in school, something she says could have been avoided had parents been informed of exposure, a measure many are pushing for.

“I’m not sure what’s going on or why this is political,” Melnick said. “I don’t know what’s what’s going on. But you… it’s our children, you know, you have faith in these people to have your kids’ best interest at heart. And that’s obviously not the case.”

Some board members are also concerned about how students will keep up with their work if they’re asked to quarantine. But, because of a district agreement with the teaches union, for now, there is no standard procedure for quarantine.

District staff told the Lee school board that all students will have access to Google Classroom and they are working on a negotiation with the teacher’s union.

The district and board members WINK News has spoken to say there’s no way to please everybody, but that their main focus for this school year is a return to normalcy for students, while still keeping in place protocols like extra cleaning and social distancing when possible.

COVID-19 guidelines could change throughout the school year. For now, if a student or staff member is symptomatic, they are required to stay home for ten days. This only applies to high-risk symptoms like shortness of breath. And, if you test positive for COVID-19, you must also stay home for ten days.

For low-risk symptoms, people are being asked to stay home for at least 24 hours without symptoms.

Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 needs to quarantine for ten days if they are unvaccinated but if you have the shot you can come to school/work.

More than one school board member didn’t appreciate that recommendation since you can’t ask who is vaccinated.

District staff assured the school board that teachers will not ask students if they’re vaccinated. Instead, the Florida Department of Health will take students off of its quarantine list because its staff keeps a record of vaccinations.

For a list of all protocols discussed in Monday’s school board meeting, you follow this link.

Reporter:Taylor Wirtz
Sydney Persing
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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