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PIE experiences successful start to school year

Millins: staff and students following all social guidelines

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Sep 9, 2020

The teachers at Pine Island Elementary preparing for the start of the school year. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY TOM MILLINS


Pine Island Elementary School Principal Tom Millins said the open house that took place one week preceding the beginning of the new school year was a preview of what was to come.

“It was a great start to the year,” said Millins. “We were really excited about seeing all the kids and the staff members who welcomed them with loving hearts.”

Monday, Aug. 31, was the first day of school for the Lee County School District, and Millins said it was a very seamless week of transitioning back, despite the pandemic.

“We’ve implemented many safety measures for all our students and staff members,” said Millins.

Some of the new safety measures, he said, are things such as social distancing during arrival and dismissal. Each parent was assigned a number for their corresponding student, who remained in the classroom until the number is broadcasted on a classroom screen, alerting the teachers of the parents’ arrival. This prohibits the students from being gathered together for pick up, said Millins. Another precaution is only allowing three classrooms in the cafeteria at any given time with the proper space between all staff and students. Adhering to school district requirements, the playground is not being used at this time for recess. Instead specified areas have been designated for the children when they take a break from academics.

“If we ever have a contact tracing, or a situation where we have to find out where the kids are, we know where they are at all times,” said Millins. “Even in the lunchroom the kids have assigned seats so we know exactly where they are in the building at any given time.”

Millins explained that there are currently three custodians on staff, one of whom has been assigned to be in the school all day. This person’s responsibilities include sanitization of high traffic areas continuously, the wiping down of door handles, and consistent cleaning of the bathrooms. The night staff is responsible for sanitizing all areas used by day in addition to cleaning each of the classrooms.

“The teachers are busy working really hard,” said Millins. “Many of them are teaching Home-Connect as well as teaching the kids in their classrooms. They’re doing a hybrid of both instructional models, which is a lot of stress and a lot of hard work. Because we’re a smaller school, the teachers have really stepped up to the plate to make it work for the kids at home and face to face.”

Millins said this plan will work seamlessly when transitioning kids back into their classrooms. The teachers are going to be celebrated by a number of restaurants with a special appreciation, Millins said. Among these are, the Olde Fishhouse, the Blue Dog, as well as a special treat each day for all staff members in the second week.

“Everything has been planned out very methodically, to make sure we’re adhering to social guidelines,” said Millins.