By: Quinton Allen CCPS Communications Specialist II
As the sun rose in Naples on Monday, August 31st, Laurel Oak Elementary (LOE) principal Dr. Brian Castellani, a long-time Collier County Public Schools administrator, stood alongside his colleagues and welcomed back bright-faced students – albeit masked – on this first day of school for Collier County Public Schools (CCPS). “For the past six months, we have been doing things differently, but to see the kids here this morning has made it so exciting,” shared a very happy Castellani.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kamela Patton, started her day by visiting the home of the Balan Family, one of the District’s families learning virtually. The Balan’s youngest children, son Alex (kindergarten) and daughter Adriela (second grade), started the year via CCPS Classroom Connect. “It’s an incredible day,” said Patton, “to be able to offer a virtual learning option for students. It takes an enormous amount of work and coordination, along with a technology department that is second to none, to provide these choices for parents.”
Students and staff returned to school campuses that looked a little different this year, with health and safety being a top priority as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the changes include students and teachers wearing masks at all times when on campus, social distancing (at least six feet apart), classroom desks separated to the greatest extent possible, water fountains disabled, and hand sanitizer strategically placed throughout schools. These changes, along with other safety measures, will help the District provide a safe learning environment where our students will be able to grow and succeed.
As CCPS bus drivers began their routes, a familiar sight returned to the roads of Collier County. The freshness of a new school year was in the air, and you could feel that first-day excitement. Throughout the District, schools like Osceola Elementary decorated their campus with balloons. Veterans Memorial Elementary staff anxiously awaited the arrival of students, smiling ear-to-ear as students exited their bus or parents’ car. Dr. Patton, as she does every year, visited several CCPS schools throughout the day. Each stop confirming what she already knew – students were excited to be back at school! While things will no doubt look and feel a bit different this school year, the District is motivated to continue to build upon the strong parent and community relationships that already exist.
Dr. Castellani shared his optimism as he greeted his LOE students on their first day: “I hope we learn a lot about each other, and learn that we are resilient people. I hope that we help each other and will be respectful. In the end, we will come back to normal – whatever that means. It might be different than we are used to, but we will come out learning so many things about each other, about technology, about psychology – and that we are gritty people.”