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As Leon County Schools works out reopening plans, many teachers left anxious

Posted at 6:53 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 09:44:25-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The window for Leon County Schools' parents to choose how their child will attend school in the fall is closed.

Now, Leon County Schools is figuring out how to put the plan in motion to split the way students will learn.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the district said that it had heard from 22,000 of it's approximately 30,000 students on how they'd like their child to learn this fall.

Based on that survey, approximately 60 percent of the district's students will return to the classroom.

"This has been a summer unlike any other summer," said Rocky Hanna, the superintendent of Leon County Schools.

LCS is now working to figure out how to best teach its students through varying platforms.

The recent survey gave students the option to return to class, learn through the digital academy, or move to Leon Virtual Schools.

More than half of the student population answered with 60 percent deciding to return to class, 37 percent (that's about 8,100 students) opted to use the new digital academy platform, and 3 percent decided to move to Leon County's Virtual School.

The survey also identified that 166 students will need better access to the internet.

Hanna says a student will be able to leave the classroom setting and move to the digital academy mid-semester but students won't be able to go back into the classroom once the school year starts.

"We want to maintain social distancing as much as we can for students in the schools and if we have students bouncing between the home and the schools, it's going to be harder for us to accommodate those requirements," Hanna said.

There are changes being made to traditional learning.

All middle and high school students will now take three 105-minute classes per day, alternating daily. Students will also be required to wear masks while in the classrooms.

As parents decide how their students will learn this fall teachers also have big decisions to make.

"The first thing that comes to mind is 'worry,'" said Shari Gewanter, a first-grade teacher in Leon County.

The district is requiring students to wear masks, social distancing the classrooms, and cutting down on social interaction throughout the day.

Still, teachers fear what lies ahead.

"I have been hearing of many teachers making the decision to retire early or just get out of the profession altogether because of how things have been changing over the years but, more importantly, what's happening because of this pandemic," said Gewanter.

Hanna says the next step in re-opening is making sure teachers are comfortable with how they return.

"There may be some teachers that are 100 percent brick and mortar, 100 percent digital academy, and then some blending," Hanna said. "All of our [teachers] will be asked to come into their classrooms in August whether they have students or not to take advantage of the technology."

Now, teachers are looking for more help even just making sure those classrooms are cleaned properly.

"Funding for the public school system has been an issue of concerns for many years and this pandemic has made it more magnified," Gewanter said. "Of course we're worried if we have enough masks, cleaning supplies, who will do the cleaning?"

Gewanter says the next three weeks will be spent addressing those concerns with the superintendent and the school board in hopes of easing the teacher's concerns.

Leon County Schools expects to know what every single student will do next semester by the end of the week. Principals will spend the rest of this week reaching out to the parents who didn't respond to the survey.