Lee County student with COVID-19 says it has upended his school year

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Gabriel Penton. Credit: WINK News.

For students, the coronavirus can have a big impact on how they are able to learn.

If a student contracts COVID-19 or is forced to quarantine because they were exposed, it takes them out of the classroom.

We spoke to a teenager with underlying conditions, who has COVID-19, and he says it has already turned his life upside down.

Gabriel Penton is a junior at Cape Coral High School, but he was not in school Tuesday. He was in his room, home sick with COVID-19.

“I feel terrible,” Penton said. “I can barely sleep. I have asthma, so it doesn’t help my breathing. I’m wheezing a lot.”

Penton spoke to us over Zoom. He told us he is fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and almost always wears a mask, so he confident he’ll beat the virus. He’s more worried about what’s happening while he is away from school.

“I’m going to be behind in classes,” Penton said. “As many people know, junior year is the most important year because it’s the last one colleges get to see what I’m doing.”

Penton is not alone, as other Lee County students also spend their day in quarantine; however, it’s not a number we are able to report, since The School District of Lee County does not release the number of students with COVID-19 in the District.

A student will be placed in quarantine if he or she contracts COVID-19 or becomes exposed to it, and Lee County students have no real-time, at-home options to keep up with their classes.

The District did away with Lee Home Connect for the 2021-22 school year.

So Penton is drafting a letter to the governor, the District and Cape Coral High School to make his voice heard.

“To raise awareness, to show that students actually care and to bring up my concerns in a way that was professional,” Penton said.

Penton told us he wants schools to be open about their rules and their impact on students.

“I would value it more if my school had the ability to tell parents about this, to tell parents, ‘Hey, someone in your kid’s classroom during X period had COVID,” Penton said. “Tell parents, ‘Hey, we had X number of cases — not keeping it silent.”

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