PLANTERSVILLE • School buses are running, pencils are sharpened and students have returned in droves to classrooms.

As Lee County Schools shook off the proverbial chalk dust and dove into another first day of classes Monday, there was trepidation, hugs and excitement as another year begins.

But the real work never really stops just because classes do. From professional development to setting up classrooms, teachers work throughout the summer break to prepare for another year of lessons and learning – and this one was no different.

Principal Lindsay Brett, now entering her third year at Plantersville Middle School, welcomed each student entering campus on Monday, just as she did her teachers on Friday.

In fact, she treated them just the same.

“I had my teachers take the state practice test,” Brett said, smiling, just after the first bell had rung Monday morning. “I wanted them to know the rigor to which they need to teach.”

Brett had her faculty follow the same parameters as students do for state exams each year, under a time limit while being surveyed.

“They had to sit in their students’ seats and feel what they feel,” she said. I wanted them to understand that.

“The history teachers had to take the ELA one, the science teachers had to take the science, the math had to take the math.”

Brett said it was a powerful tool to bring her staff closer – not only to their students – but also together.

“I took them on a bus ride through all of our neighborhoods, and we saw where our children live,” she said. “They needed these moments.”

While getting her returning educators and five new teachers acclimated to how their students would feel, Brett also completed lesson plans and taught class on Friday.

“We’ve got a lot of teachers who are excited to be here and who are ready to make a difference,” she said. “They’re academically strong and I’m excited about what they bring to the table.”

For the 280-some fifth- through eighth-grade students at Plantersville Middle School, Brett’s goal is to treat them academically, socially and emotionally.

“We treat the whole child here,” she said. “This is a place where they’re safe, loved and are going to learn.”

LCS Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said that the start of this school year is like any other – having an educational and safe semester.

“Student learning is the reason schools and teachers exist, but that learning cannot take place if students do not feel safe at school,” he said. “I hope the district continues to improve and continues doing great things for kids.”

Focusing on each campus and the individual child, Weeks said that all elements of the classroom setting are ready for returning students.

“This is different depending on the school level and age of the child. Being ready for a beginning kindergarten child is completely different from being ready for a fifth-grade student or a senior. With that being said, we strive to make the first day back a good experience for every student,” he said. Twitter: @wderekrussell

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