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Millins, school district carefully preparing for reopening of PIE

July 29, 2020
By PAULETTE LeBLANC ( , Pine Island Eagle

Tom Millins took over the job as principal of Pine Island Elementary in the midst of much worldwide consternation. He says the district office in Fort Myers is working with every school in the district in order to ensure a safe reopening plan on Aug. 31.

According to Millins, four different instructional models were given to parents, from which they could choose. They are: Face to Face, in which students are in school five days a week with health and safety protocols in place; Home Connect, which provides online learning with teachers following a traditional daily schedule. Students will return to their school at the end of each grading period or at the discretion of the principal; Lee Virtual School, where children are enrolled full-time (Lee Virtual School is fully accredited); and Home School, where the student is taught full-time by one or both parents or guardians.

The survey, which went out on June 17 and concluded on June 26, was sent to the homes of each of the students in an effort to solicit information from the parents on which instructional model might best fit the needs of their particular family.

Millins also said the district office has been communicating with the each of the schools via weekly Zoom meetings in order to provide updates on changes, which demand completion prior to the new school year. For instance, Millins said, the district will provide masks for students and adults, in addition to sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizers for each classroom. There will also be social distancing signs, and partitions for highly trafficked areas as a means of offering support. CDC recommendations will be observed with the safety of students and staff members in mind, Millins said, stressing that each of the schools, including Pine Island Elementary, will be given strict guidelines by the district.

"Each of the schools are so unique," said Millins. "We have to be able to look at our own procedures to determine the best process for the kids."

For example, he pointed out the processes of transitioning from class to class, bus disembarkment, the parent pickup line, the look of the classrooms and cafeteria, which may be different in going forward. Millins added that the district will not yet allow parents or visitors in the building to ensure a clean environment.

"These are all things that are being determined according to guidelines we're given from the state, the CDC and the district office," said Millins.

In addition to strict adherence to these guidelines, Millins stressed that parents can be rest assured that the custodial staff has been diligent in its cleaning of the classrooms, to keep them germ free.

"We are going back into those classrooms on a weekly basis," said Millins, "and making sure that they are ready for students and ready for our staff, who will come back even sooner."

Since assuming his new position, Millins has taken the opportunity to become better acquainted with the community, with such things as actively participating in the Kiwanis Club, and becoming more familiar with other island organizations, such as the Matlacha Hookers and the American Legion. In addition to this, Millins said he's also made it his business to meet with some local restaurant owners.

With things changing so frequently, Millins has had to forgo his traditional form of communication, by letter, and replaced this by updating the school website, where he has uploaded a bilingual welcome letter to the parents of Pine Island Elementary students, as well as emailing every parent with a known email address, and creating a YouTube video, in an effort to represent himself as both personable and recognizable in his new vital role on the island.

"We are making sure that we are taking in all the information from all the agencies, to get all processes and procedures in place to keep the kids safeand make sure the staff is safe as well," Millins said.



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