Lee County school district leaders discuss strategies to get teachers and students back on track

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
lee county school board meeting
Credit: WINK News

The goal of Monday’s meeting with leaders from The School District of Lee County is to get students and teachers back on track in the midst of a damaging pandemic.

Leaders discussed multiple ways to do this after seeing how COVID-19 and the protocols the district enforced have impacted those students and their teachers.

What began as a conversation about money quickly shifted to a conversation amongst members of the Lee County School Board about how COVID-19 is continuing to affect students and teachers.

Gwyn Gittens is a Lee County School Board member. “if the achievement gap was this wide before covid, and now it’s this wide, are we just working to get it back to where we were?” said Gittens.

Existing data proves that students in kindergarten through second grade are currently showing the highest percentage of learning loss.

Melisa Giovanelli is also a school board member. “Students are behind over a year, this was particularly a kindergarten teacher, she said she’s got kids who can’t spell their names,” said Giovanelli.

District staff and board members agree that mental health continues to suffer terribly.

“In fall 2020, Golisano Children’s Hospital saw a 66% percent increase in pediatric emergency room visits who were baker acted, when we look at that we know our students need support,” Giovanelli said.

Betsy Vaughn is a board member who argues that teachers, too, are in crisis. Many are overworked or working extra hours. Vaughn believes teachers are spending hours calling parent after parent to talk about their children’s absences and falling grades.

“I’ve heard from too many teachers leaving the classroom because they’re too overwhelmed … teachers who are….literally drowning,” Vaughn said.

18 months into this pandemic, the virus is impacting more than just the physical health of these children.

In Monday’s meeting, SDLC staff told board members how they plan to use federal funds to address all of the issues that were discussed.

The district says another proposed way to fight the learning loss from COVID is to implement year-round school.

Lee Schools Superintendent Ken Savage tweeted this afternoon that the district has analyzed how year-round school works. He says the district hopes to have a pilot program in the near future.

However, a district spokesperson says there is no immediate plan to implement year-round school.

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