Collier County to show Obama school speech -- if early enough

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— Collier County students will see President Barack Obama’s speech to student on Tuesday, Sept. 14 — if he speaks to students in the morning.

Sept. 14 is a scheduled early dismissal day for all Collier County public schools. High school students will be dismissed at 11:05 a.m., elementary school students will be dismissed at 11:50 a.m. and middle school students will be dismissed at 12:50 p.m. on that date.

The White House has yet to announce the time of day the address will be delivered. If it is scheduled to be delivered during the school district’s abbreviated school day, schools will show it, district officials said Wednesday.

Parents choosing to not have their child view the address will be given the opportunity to opt out. A Presidential Address Opt Out form is posted online at www.collierschools.com with a direct link in the What’s New? area near the top of the home page. It is also posted on the Parents page. Copies of the form may be obtained from any school and from the school district’s Communications Services Department via e-mail at info@collier.k12.fl.us, or by phone at (239) 377-0180.

Parents wishing to opt out should complete the form and return it to their child’s school. Versions of the form in Spanish and Creole will soon be available on the district’s website.

District Spokesman Joe Landon said Wednesday there is no district-wide directive regarding what schools should plan for those students whose parents opt out. He said it will be up to the each building principal to decide what to do.

In the event school is not in session when the address is shown live, teachers at any level may show a recording of it at a later time at their discretion, but they must give timely notice to parents or guardians giving them the opportunity to opt out, district officials said Wednesday.

The Lee County School District confirmed last week they will air the speech live in all Lee County Public Schools.

“We’re excited that we have advanced notice — staff will be awaiting further information from the White House so the District can plan accordingly,” District Spokesman Joe Donzelli wrote in an e-mail.

Parents can opt their students out from watching the speech, Donzelli said. Schools will provide additional educational opportunities for those students who do opt out, he said.

Both Collier and Lee County School Districts opted out of showing Obama’s speech last year when the president addressed students on the importance of taking responsibility for their success.

School districts across the country were inundated with phone calls from parents and struggled to address the controversy that broke out after Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to principals urging schools to watch. At the time, both Lee and Collier district officials said they had been contacted from people supporting showing the speech and others who did not believe the speech should be shown to students.

Ultimately, the Lee County School District recorded the 18-minute speech and, after reviewing it, administrators deemed it suitable for children and a copy was made available for teachers to show in classrooms — if they received signed permission slips from parents giving their students permission.

The Collier County School District placed a link to its speech on the district’s website following Obama’s address last year should parents and students want to view it. Superintendent Dennis Thompson said at the time the logistics of making the webcast available at noon during a school day would be too difficult to organize.

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