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Back to School: More than half of Collier students plan to return to school campuses

Rachel Fradette
Naples Daily News

More than half of students are planning to head back to brick-and-mortar schools this fall, according to survey results from the Collier County School District.

According to the school district, nearly 60% of students opted for in-person learning with the other nearly 40% placed in an online learning model.

In July, Florida's Department of Education issued an emergency order requiring brick-and-mortar schools to reopen for instruction this August amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district changed its start date twice and eventually decided on Aug. 31.

Previous reporting:Collier school board changes student start date to Aug. 31

Classroom Connect, or full-time structured virtual learning, and eCollier Academy, or flexible virtual learning, are the two virtual options parents were provided.

The fourth option, home education, amounted to a small fraction of Collier's student population, less than 1%.

After reviewing Collier County's coronavirus cases and rates, Amber Frederiksen decided her daughter, Naila, would continue school online.

"The fact that we are opening now when we have not met any of the benchmarks,

I feel like it's not in the best interest of the students, it's not in the best interest of the teachers and it's not in the best interest of the community," Frederiksen said.

Demonstrators drive past the Collier County Public Schools Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Administrative Center offices in North Naples on Monday, July 27, 2020, to shed light on their fears of reopening schools this fall.

Frederiksen said she understands that other children have different needs, but she worries about what will happen if students or teachers test positive for the virus.

Given four options by the district, the majority of parents chose a return to physical school buildings but that can change later. 

More like this:Teachers face choice after Collier announces reopening plan to include in-person classes

For instance, parents who opted for in-person learning or Classroom Connect for their children can change their selection after the first or second quarters, according to the district. 

Those who opted for eCollier Academy have committed to the program through at least the first quarter, according to the district. They will still have an option to change after that. 

Parents are able to make adjustments up until the first day of school, according to the district. 

"We understand that extenuating circumstances may occur and individual circumstances will be considered as needed," Jennifer Kupiec, a district spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

For now, the numbers are subject to change because the choices can be altered, but the majority of responses are in. 

By the way:Collier schools to offer on campus and virtual learning; face coverings, safety glasses required on campus

The 6,895 students whose parents did not complete the survey were placed in the on-campus learning option; parents of 34,428 students completed the survey.

Demonstrators drive past the Collier County Public Schools Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Administrative Center offices in North Naples on Monday, July 27, 2020, to shed light on their fears of reopening schools this fall.

Parents were asked to complete the selection survey by July 27, and the district's response rate is 83.3%.

Surveys for more than 41,000 students that were sent out excluded pre-K, alternative education, McKay scholarship recipients, Florida Virtual School and charter school students.

The survey results are:

  • On-campus learning: 58.6%
  • Classroom Connect: 34.4%
  • eCollier Academy: 6.5%
  • Home Education: 0.5%

Students and faculty members, who are attending five days a week on campus, will be required to wear face masks during school hours, according to the district's plan. 

Some preventative measures in the reopening plan include dedicated hand washing time, increased sanitation, hand sanitizing stations and limiting large gatherings.

Collier schools will not be performing temperature checks. Rather, parents are encouraged to check their child's temperature ahead of school's start each day, Kupiec wrote in an email. 

Jonathan Tuttle, executive director of the teachers' union, said the number of students returning makes teachers nervous.

"We think they should delay completely, but if they're not going to delay, I appreciate them taking the extra time to make sure materials and distributed cleaning supplies are in place and people are trained on what they need to know," Tuttle said.

Various school members who have children in the district also made their selections. 

Amber Hinkel welcomes campers to their second week of STEAM camp remotely from the Collier County Public Schools office in Naples on Monday, June 22, 2020. The camp, done through Teams, focuses on Minecraft, coding and team work. A group of rising fifth graders from Title I schools get to participate in the four-week virtual camp.

School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Lucarelli, Vice Chairman Erick Carter and board member Jen Mitchell said they picked in-person learning for their children.

Mitchell's two daughters will head back to Gulf Coast High School in August after she left the decision mostly up to them, she said. 

"That's what worked for our family," Mitchell said. "I think that's the important part about choices, right, is that different families are in different positions." 

Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at rfradette@gannett.com.

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