Parents anxious over possible Lee County school district teacher contract strike

Reporter: Claire Galt
Published: Updated:

Parents are reacting to the news that Lee County school district teachers are considering going on a contract strike.

Teachers have not said if they will do it or when, but they told WINK News they are fed up with the ongoing teacher and bus driver shortage. Between covering classes for missing teachers and playing catch up with students who get to school late, they are desperate for help.

Parents want to know how a possible contract strike will impact their kids in the classroom and on the bus. The Lee County school district is short 178 teachers and 70 bus drivers, the district has told WINK News.

Veronica Washington believes the shortage is a direct result of the school district not paying enough, and it’s messing with her and her children’s lives.

Washington’s kids love going to school, but she doesn’t love missing work to get them there.

“I have a job that I need to do. The district has a job to make sure these children aren’t late getting to school and getting to school on time every day,” Washington said. “Do something about the issue, pay the drivers enough to live and get more drivers, pay the teachers enough to live and get more teachers.”

The School District of Lee County bus. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Washington said she had enough of her children’s bus getting to school late, so she decided to pay for morning care, which costs her $40 a week, or about $160 a month.

“That’s a tank of gas. You know, that’s a meal for a few days. That’s the inconvenience of me now, driving to the school to drop the children off and then driving back to work,” she said.

Now, she is worried her bill could increase if teachers go on a contract strike, which means they only work what is required of them. If they go on strike, teachers won’t stick around to help kids get on their buses after school.

Jennifer Burrows, dean at Oak Hammock Middle School, told WINK News that wouldn’t be good.

“Our bus problems at our school, their late buses, we probably get about 10 of them that aren’t there by the time our contract time,” Burrows said.

Burrows said the school district needs to have a plan in place in case of the contract strike.

“Take a look at that and see what’s really happening in the schools, and then ask yourself, are they putting students first? Because that’s the question I want to ask the district: are you putting students first?” Burrows said.

Andrea Berg’s son Mason is in the seventh grade at the Sanibel School. She wants to know what is Lee County schools’ plan if there’s a contract strike.

For a second day, the School District of Lee County spokesperson said the school district is in collective bargaining with teachers, and it’s inappropriate to negotiate in the media.

Berg sees it another way.

“It’s inappropriate that they stay silent,” Berg said. “Staying silent is a sign of being guilty, and I believe that in order for them to do what’s right, they need to speak up and make things right with the teachers. They need to act quickly because our children will suffer.”

Washington agrees.

“They need to do something,” she said. “They need to show that they care.”

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