Lee County teachers set to return to school, still don’t know in what form

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
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Teachers go back to school Tuesday in Lee County, but they still don’t know their class assignments.

We spoke to a Lee County teacher who has cancer and doesn’t want to return to an in-person classroom.

Erica Orjuela has stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in her bone barrow.

“You’re gonna make me cry because, a lot of my students, they’ve reached out,” Orjuela said.

When they reach out, they ask, “Ms. Orjuela, can’t you just teach us virtually from home?”

Students return to school Aug. 31 in Lee County, and Orjuela still doesn’t know how she will be assigned.

“It’s not my call, and I miss my classroom,” Orjuela said. “I miss my kids, and I miss being in my element.”

Orjuela wants to teach her current class from home, but the School District of Lee County could ask her to teach a new set of students in Lee Virtual School. Some of her colleagues won’t have that choice though.

“They themselves might not be at risk, but they take care of someone or live with someone that they could potentially expose,” Orjuela said.

Another unanswered question at the top of the minds of teachers in Lee County is how many students will be assigned to in-person classrooms and who will wipe down the classrooms when students change classes.

The district told us it’s still working on getting those answers.

Orjuela said her principal has been incredibly supportive.

Orjuela and other Lee County teachers will walk back into their buildings on Tuesday, some still not sure what exactly it is they’re walking into.

“It’s kind of like a day-by-day thing,” said Mary Fischer, the chair of Lee County School Board. “Things may change.”

Fischer said parents and students are writing and calling day-by-day, hour-by-hour, asking if they can change their minds and stay home.

“And some people have opted now not to go virtual but to come face to face,” Fischer said. “And, again, we have to look at this classroom, child-by-child, teacher-by-teacher, classroom by classroom.”

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