Teachers are back in Lee County classrooms on Tuesday, with 450 new teachers joining the school district before classes start next Monday.
Leaders with the School District of Lee County say nearly 100,000 students will be heading back to school next week. Teachers are getting their classrooms ready, and many feel a sense of premature exhaustion ahead of the 2022-2023 school year. That comes from the district’s learning models constantly changing due to the pandemic, from the push to get more pay and from the new Florida laws regarding education.
Despite all that, however, many of the nearly 6,000 teachers who will be teaching students in Lee County this school year say they’re still excited.
“Yes, being a teacher has its moments of exhaustion, but do I get up every morning? And I’m excited to go back,” said Lee County kindergarten teacher Hayley Segal. “There’s nothing better than a new year. We get so excited about it. There’s so much planning that we do, even now. I mean, my husband and I have already been to Target looking for things for our classroom.”
LCSD say it is doing its best to return to a traditional learning model, allowing guests and visitors back into the classroom. This comes as the CDC shows that 63% of the population in Lee County is fully vaccinated, compared to 71.3% in Collier County and 66.4% in Charlotte County.
While COVID-19 concerns may be winding down for some, parents are nonetheless worried about school safety.
“I do believe our schools are safe,” Segal said. “Our panic button we have to wear around us all the time, that is there. We’ve been trained on how many times to press it in terms of a very big emergency, a small emergency. They are able to see where we are; all of admin knows where we are.”
Safety is top of mind, especially with the recent mass shootings across the nation, with the one at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, claiming the lives of 21 people in May. But Segal says she feels secure with the safety measures LCSD has in place.
“I worry about it, but I can’t think about those things. Because if you think about it, at least for me, then I will just be, you know, too afraid. And then you pass that to them,” said Lee County kindergarten teacher Lissette Rosales.
Segal also mentioned that politics have been tied into education now more than ever. She personally doesn’t worry about what’s coming from Tallahassee, because she’s ultimately the one in charge of teaching her students what they need to know to make sure they’re ready for first grade. Segal says she tries her best to keep politics out of the classroom, as do her co-workers.
“I’m here to teach. I’m just here to teach you the subjects. I’m not here to, you know, say, oh, I’m this and that,” said Rosales.
“The days are so packed, and there’s so much that we need to get in as far as curriculum goes, there’s really not a lot of downtime for me to impart my belief system on kids,” said Lee County kindergarten teacher Amber Annarumma.
This year most, if not all, COVID-19 protocols have been lifted. Teachers believe this will help them and their students.
“I’m hoping without certain protocols that we can have volunteers in the classroom again, that’s probably the most exciting being able to welcome families back into the classroom more and more whole group activities,” said Lee County kindergarten teacher Danielle Fitzsimmons.
The teachers WINK News met at Cape Coral elementary said they would continue to clean and sanitize their rooms, said and students can wear masks if they wish.
The teachers said they are not sure what to expect when it comes to class size, but they’ll be ready to care for every child.
If you would like to learn more about the schedule for the upcoming Lee County school year, click here.