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Teachers plan off the clock
Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy fourth-grade science teacher Elaine Cantrell unpacks items for her bulletin board Thursday while grandchildren Jeremiah Miller, 7, and Courtney, 14, help organize the classroom. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

School starts in a week, and teachers have been preparing all summer.

Pre-planning officially begins this week, but with furlough days on the way, many teachers started putting their rooms together last week.

At Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, a few were moving desks and cleaning their rooms Thursday.

“During the summer, the furniture is moved out of the room so they can clean the floors, and then the furniture is put back in the room — but not in the place you had it,” said Tina Gonzalez, an English as a Second Language teacher who is taking on a homeroom class this year. “My husband came in and moved my filing cabinets in place, and now I’m arranging the desks and putting up posters.”

Gonzalez said she usually starts coming into the classroom for a few hours each day, several weeks before school starts. At Enota, teachers also worked around construction schedules, not coming in until roof and plumbing repairs were complete.

Furloughs also are hitting hard. Employees won’t be able to enter the building, and many teachers are cramming their planning time into two days.

“The kids are losing five school days, and we’re losing five work days, so that means we’ll take home more work and come in on the weekends,” Gonzalez said. “Parents can help by contacting their legislators and letting them know.”

With fewer planning hours, the annual “Meet Your Teacher” time is being canceled, and instead teachers will be working in their rooms. All Gainesville schools will now host “visiting hours” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. Parents and students can still find their classroom assignments, and a few teachers have said they’ll leave their doors open while they work.

“I always love seeing my kids,” said Elaine Cantrell, a fourth-grade science teacher at Enota. “There’s a lot to do, but we’ll get there.”
Cantrell’s daughter and two grandchildren helped sort through her new room on Thursday.

“I had to move rooms, so all of my things are in boxes and nothing is in place yet,” she said. “Usually we’re here whenever we want during the summer, leisurely cleaning. But now, with just a few days to get things done, I’ll probably work full days.”

Cindy Bryant, an Enota parent and member of the Parent Teacher Association, said parents are understanding about losing “Meet Your Teacher” time.

“The teachers will be there during the visiting hours, so I don’t think it is a negative. They’re doing the best they can with all the cuts the state has made,” she said. “The parking lot is full during the summer, and teachers are working and not getting paid.”

The best thing parents can do is show continued support, she said.

“Volunteer in the classroom. The little things help and save teachers time,” she said. “I help file papers now that they have less planning time. For working parents, check your child’s backpack and do as much as you can to support the teacher. Send a thank-you note.”