Significant changes are coming to Lee County high school schedules. Starting next school year, Lee County schools will have seven periods instead of four.
The district and the teachers union have differing opinions on the adjustment. They disagree on whether the change will help the teacher shortage at Fort Myers High School or anywhere else.
The district says it’s simple. Fewer classes mean fewer teachers are needed. The union argues those teachers will have to do more in less time, which could drive teachers away.
The change will have teachers and high school students seeing more of each other come next school year. Gone will be the four long classes every other day. They will be replaced by seven shorter classes every day.
Interim Superintendent Doctor Ken Savage said the move will help close the learning gap. “What this allows us to do is for the classes that students do have with their teachers, they pick up 720 minutes of additional instruction in each class,” said Savage.
It also means students will take seven classes instead of eight. That means Lee County schools will need 140 fewer teachers.
Superintendent Savage estimated the change will save the district $10 million, money the district can spend on teacher raises. “Even more important than hiring new employees is retaining our existing employees,” Savage said.
Kevin Daly, with the teachers union, thinks the new schedule will have the opposite effect. He said teachers will have more classes to teach and less time to prepare. “There is a lot of anxiety and a little bit of anger around the change,” said Daly. “More workload and less time to handle it during the contract hours, so that equates to more time off the clock on the weekends or at night and things like that because things need to be graded, work needs to be done.”
Making matters worse, Daly said no one with Lee County schools involved teachers in the process of adjusting the schedule. “They do not feel like they had a voice,” Daly said.
“The district says it did bring the teachers union into the conversation, but Daly said in his opinion, the decision to change schedules was already final.
A district spokesperson said the superintendent and other district leaders “consulted” with the school board and the incoming superintendent, but said this was a management decision.
“The seven-period day is not perfect but it is a very common schedule across the country and across Florida, very very common. It is common for a reason. It is common because it is very efficient educationally and economically and from a staffing standpoint,” said Superintendent Savage.
The change has parents and their kids asking questions. “The shorter classes are probably OK, but I wonder if they can get all of the information they need in the shorter time?” asked Fort Myers High School parent Richard DeCosta.
“I feel like it really just harms the teachers and kids just don’t get as much time in their classes,” said Luke Waid, a senior at Fort Myers High School.
Superintendent Savage argues that is not the case. Overall a seven-period schedule gives teachers and students more time together. “I think it might be more beneficial… I get to work on what I am learning much more,” said Fort Myers High School freshman Samuel Salamanca.
Daly said it means teachers will have to teach more classes daily with less time to plan. “I think for employees it is more stressful. It creates a bigger burden,” said Daly.
If you have questions about the new high school schedules in Lee County, you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.