Lee County School Board Chair says school will open in-person, despite petition

More than 4,500 calling for only virtual classes
Posted at 8:21 PM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 20:21:57-04

LEE COUNTY — The Lee County School Board Chair says school will be starting in-person as planned.

This comes after the Teachers Association of Lee County delivered a petition to the board, calling for all classes to be virtual, with more than 4,500 signatures.

Right now, just under 50% of students plan to return to class at the School District. That means, some teachers are going to be required to be in the building, and that’s a reality one teacher we spoke with couldn’t face.

5th grade special education teacher Mara Tincher says, she just had a baby, and between concerns about safety at school and at day cares, she chose to resign.

“I actually know a couple people who work in the daycare system, and they’ve had COVID and teachers I know that have gotten COVID. I’m just like, I don’t really know if I want a newborn getting exposed of that from me, so I kind of decided not to return to this coming school year," said Tincher.

Many other teachers are considering that decision as well. Several joined a protest earlier this month, calling for classes to be only held online, but School Board Chair Mary Fischer says those teachers are in the minority.

“When we looked at the petition, although it was signed by over 4,300 people, those were not all teachers… The result of our surveys have been, and a lot of them have been personal, that 66% of our teachers are opting to come back to school," said Fischer.

Fischer says, virtual school is also a fight that other school districts have already lost.

“Brevard had made a choice to go virtual only the first quarter, and so they were, I guess, informed by Tallahassee that, that they couldn’t do that. And then, right before our meeting yesterday, the Brevard Superintendent was on saying that they would be offering the brick and mortar option," said Fischer.

Fischer says, at this point, school will be moving forward in-person as planned at the end of the month, but she says, they’re being as safe as possible.

“We have taken every precaution... from sanitization and personal protective equipment, as well as dividers, acrylic dividers," said Fischer.

“I think they’re doing the best that they can, and really it seems like that’s the only option they have. Giving teachers options with this virtual, or at school, and as well as giving parents that same option," said Tincher.

One of the things the petition noted was that the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for schools to remain closed until transmission rates of COVID-19 drop below 5%. In Lee County, there was a 14.6% rate as of Wednesday.