Lee County School Board members respond to survey showing most teachers, parents and students likely to return to class come fall

Reporter: Sydney Persing
Published: Updated:
Classroom. Photo via WINK News

Returning to the classroom and how can it be done? We asked you with a WINK News survey last week. Since then, your responses have doubled.

“How likely are you to return if class starts in the fall??” On a scale of 1-10 ranging from “not at all likely” to “extremely likely,” a third of people who responded said they were anywhere from on the fence to not likely at all.

WINK News Reporter Sydney Persing spoke with some Lee County School Board members about those results.

RELATED: Survey: SWFL students, teacher say they prefer in-class learning 

Distance learning has not been easy, at least not for everyone. Ask school board member Gwynetta Gittens, proudly serving District 5.

“Each kid has their own bedroom and own computer and own whatever; that is creating a divide academically,” she said.

She calls it the “digital divide,” the split between kids who have the resources, space and the parental support to do distance learning and do it well.

“We really have to think about, in some of our areas, the education level for adults in the household is like fifth or sixth grade,” Gittens said.

School board members Cathleen Morgan and Mary Fischer know it too.

“I think, going forward, we are going to have to tackle how many kids are really ready to return as normal,” Morgan said.

“Those who had internet and connectivity issues, it was a struggle,” Fischer said.

Survey Results: Back to School in Southwest Florida in the COVID-19 Era

The Lee County School District says their hope is for a full return come fall. But when we asked you, on a scale of not likely to extremely likely, if you’ll return in the fall, 30% of you — teachers, parents, students — were on the fence, extremely unlikely or somewhere in between.

“Personally, I, Gwen Gittens, see some people not sending their kids back,” Gittens said. “I think one-third of the people are still very freaked out about this and very concerned.”

So we asked these women, what happens if folks don’t bring their kids back? Or if teachers say they’re not coming in either?

“When you boil that down, that means funding,” Gittens said. “Because our funding is done by the number of students, then it’s going to affect all children.”

Though nothing is formally off the table, Fischer says she thinks and hopes distance learning will be available as an option in some form for families who need it and was quick to note the district already has a virtual school program.

“They’ve already seen an increase in enrollment,” she said.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to work with families,” Morgan said. “Whether we set up a separate, virtual education for those kids and families, whether we support them in their homeschooling.”

Gittens says her district has a lot of folks who don’t speak English and who have poor internet connectivity.

She wants to make sure their experiences with distance learning are thoroughly considered before the district finalizes any plans for back to school.

TAKE THE SURVEY: We’ve kept the survey open so you can have your say, too

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