LEE COUNTY, Fla. — With the recent emergency order requiring schools in Florida to open for in-person classes in August, school districts are deliberating how to safely welcome students back in the Fall.
On Tuesday, the Lee County School District's "Pandemic Response Task Force" met for over three hours to finalize a back to school proposal plan.
The reopening task force had previously voted on a proposal to present to the school board last month but had to reassess the plan to meet the Florida Department of Education's emergency order for schools to reopen at least five days per week.
That previous proposal suggested having K-6th graders return in-person, while 7-12th graders would have done a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes.
"This is a very fluid situation, so things are constantly changing," said Lee Schools Superintendent, Dr. Gregory K. Adkins.
The task force's new proposal would allow parents to choose between having their children return to the classroom five days a week or attend online.
"What we're trying to do here is really provide a high-quality education for our student and one that gives equitable opportunity," said Dr. Adkins.
The new proposal includes the "Lee Home Connect" option. This option is in addition to Lee Virtual School and Homeschool.
"The goal around this option, that's why we call it 'Lee Home Connect,' is [to] keep the student connected either with a teacher in their building or their assigned classroom teacher," said a Pandemic Response Task Force member.
The Lee Home Connect option would allow students to return to their regular schools at the end of each grading period or their principle's discretion.
"The whole idea is to keep students connected with the school, keep students connected with their regularly assigned teachers," the member added.
Another topic discussed was transportation.
"We transport a significant amount of kids in lee county, I think the estimate is around 55,000 out of the 96,000 kids each day," said Kevin Daly, President of the Teachers Association of Lee County.
Daly says more students on campus means more students will need transportation.
On Tuesday, the task force voted to propose that students be required to use a face mask while on the bus.
"We need to remember that we need bus drivers if the bus drivers get sick, who's going to drive the bus. There's only so many substitutes," said Jamie Michael, President of Support Personnel of Lee Co.
The task force also moved forward with recommending that masks be required during class transitions — a decision not everyone was in favor of.
"I can't believe that you're actually thinking that our kids need to be masked up in schools," said a task force member.
The pandemic response task force will be presenting the finalized proposal to the school board on Wednesday.
Parents that wish to enroll their children in Lee Virtual School can still do so. The district has extended the deadline until August 3rd.