Protecting children from a spreading virus and understanding parents’ concerns about who is using which bathroom. It’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic that a school superintendent has to consider.
Ken Savage, interim superintendent at the Lee County school district, has been on the job for a short time but he has a lot to do with the school bell set to ring in five days.
“I don’t get as much sleep as I used to,” Savage said. “That’s for sure.”
What keeps him up at night is how to keep students, teachers and staff safe from COVID-19 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order saying public schools cannot mandate masks.
Some school districts plan to defy the order.
“I think all options are always in consideration,” Savage said.
Masks are not the only political issue on his desk. He also has to handle the controversy over an LGBTQ poster that was removed from the Student Code of Conduct.
Savage said he would defer to the policy if a transgender student wanted to use a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
“I’m not here to change your beliefs,” Savage said. “I’m not here to tell you, you have the wrong ideology. I value it, I value that difference. But I would encourage everyone to be as disciplined as we can to really pursue truth and facts.”
Truth and facts are what Savage said he will turn to guide his decision-making every day as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Keeping in line with DeSantis’ executive order, Lee County schools will not have a mask mandate.
What would it take to reverse that?
“I think if we had overwhelming medical advisement from our Department of Health or local health care providers, I think we’d have to consider whatever options are necessary,” Savage said. “Because I think at the end of the day, people’s lives are in our hands every day. And we know that.”
Among those lives are Savage’s 4-year-old twins.
“Every decision I make is with them in mind,” he said. “So if you’re a parent at home, and you’re thinking, you know, well, how do I know the superintendent has my best interests at heart? Because my own children are just like your kids.”
The first day of school for Lee County’s 95,000 students is Tuesday.
To read the school district’s non-discrimination policy, head to the Lee County school district website.