ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — The first semester of the 2021/2022 school year is nearly over and school leaders say they are in a good place following a spike in COVID-19 cases at the start of the school year.
The superintendent of the St. Lucie County School District, Wayne Gent, told WPTV's Michael Williams, teachers in his district are in a groove and focused on getting students back up to speed following the challenges of the past two school years.
"We're focusing on teaching and learning. We are bringing in additional support into school centers to help support the students, particularly those that are lagging behind as well as supporting the instruction that's going," Gent told Williams on To the Point.
Gent said the biggest challenges he has seen are in math. He says test scores were down across the state last year and teachers are now playing catch up. The district is using money from the federal government to target younger students.
“We've put a lot of resources in kindergarten to second grade, because those are the crucial foundation grades where we don’t want students falling behind,” Gent said. “We’ve put additional support in those areas.”
As for COVID-19 cases in the district, Gent says cases are declining. Masks are not mandatory, but Gent says some students and teachers are choosing to wear one while in the building,
“We still stress the social distancing. We stress the hand washing. We stress don't come to school if you're sick,” Gent said. “We'll monitor what's going on with the new variant. It doesn't appear at this time to be as severe as others. It's still early in it, but we're ready for anything.”
This week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his proposed budget that includes additional money for teacher salaries. Gent said he supports the money and hopes he and the district can also offer additional funds to all district employees.
“We were able to match what the governor did with the $1,000 bonus. We were able to do that for all of our employees and particularly our support staff,” Gent said.
He added it's been a challenge to make sure all staff get raises, but said as of now all negotiations with all of the bargaining groups are complete.
The winter break for the district begins December 20 and students will return on January 4.