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Lee County School District preparing for successful school year with new resources

Lee County Schools
Posted at 7:25 PM, Aug 07, 2023

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The Guardian Program is putting guns in the hands of school staff in the hope that this will protect your children. This is a return to schools that promises big changes for students in Lee County this year.

Open Gate is a weapons detector that the district is starting to install in Lee County Schools. They're like metal detectors, but instead of sounding an alarm for metal, they will only go off if it detects a weapon. All schools will have them by the end of the school year.

Proximity zones will also be implemented which will impact bus routes and which schools students will attend. And even something new we learned today — a new bus check-in system that requires riders to scan a card. This will keep a record of when the children have gotten on and off the bus. Parents, guardians, and teachers will be able to track drop-offs and pick-ups in real time.

But despite all of these changes, on Monday Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier told Fox 4 that his district is almost ready to go back to school. "I feel proud but at the same time there's still work to be done."

There is work that is tied to Hurricane Ian. Dr. Bernier adds, "I still feel that I'll feel best when I know that every school building has been fully repaired." Some of the work left to be done includes hiring teachers and how they will handle the local cost of living. "We're going to have to get creative for what we can do for housing not just for educators but for first responded [and] nurses. We're struggling across this entire community."

Dr. Bernier is committed to making sure the teachers are paid in the best way possible and making sure the wages are sustainable. He is also helping his team get ready to teach under new standards handed down by the state that change the way topics like African American History are taught.

"We created opportunities for our teachers to have [a] voice, including bringing the depth of education to our meetings and ensuring they have the best instruction possible." But Dr. Bernier doesn't believe that changes at the state level have had any impact on people wanting to teach in Florida.

"I haven't been able to find any data that would say to me that people aren't choosing to come to the state of Florida. I would say based upon our decrease in the number of vacancies. I believe we're going to have less than when we open schools than we had a year ago. That data would tell me that there are still people wanting to come to the state and educate children within our classrooms." And regardless of the lesson, Dr. Bernier expects his teachers to always have the same goal when it comes to interacting with students.

"Grace and compassion. We make sure that we take a student, try to provide them the resources that they need or their family needs in order to create a successful learner."