HENDRY COUNTY — The reopening plan for Hendry County Schools was approved, due to the state’s deadline for submittal looming over the board as they worked hard to make the best, safest decisions for children and staff. Changes to the plan are sure to be made, as meetings continue.
At their last meeting, the members of the Hendry County School Board discussed their concern for everyone’s health and safety, and the students’ need for stability, consistency and routine. Superintendent Paul Puletti stated his concern regarding the possible loss of staff that would hinder their ability to keep everyone safe.
One hard and fast rule was made, requiring face masks on campus at all times, a mandate that was put into place effective immediately. The emergency policy for facial coverings encompasses all students, staff, contractors, vendors, and visitors.
Many parents were worried as well. Some expressed their concerns regarding how long it might be before the schools would be forced to close due to staff, students, and/or teachers contracting COVID-19, or even showing symptoms.
Dr. Joseph D. Pepe; administrator of the Florida Department of Health, Hendry and Glades Counties, was present at the school board meeting, as was Dr. Wilhelmina Lewis, CEO of Florida Community Health Centers. Both seemed to agree that the spread of the virus could happen very quickly, possibly only taking a few weeks to be detrimental enough to force closures.
One of the citizens who attended the meeting, commented later, “Those of you who are choosing to homeschool are making a difference for those who will be in the physical classroom.” She went on to explain, “By accepting the responsibility of homeschooling you’ve made room for children who may not have any other options. Your decision means those kids and their teacher and other school employees are a little bit safer. It’s about doing your best not just for your own kids but for the whole community. Drs. Pepe and Lewis both stressed that we all need to do a little bit more to keep each other safe.”
UPDATE: An emergency meeting was held Aug. 11. Hendry County Schools will start distance learning on Aug. 24 and open school buildings on Aug. 31.