Superintendent’s Corner column: First day of in-person learning looks normal
Other than the fact that everybody is wearing a mask, it’s surprising how normal things look on the first day of in-person school at our elementary schools. Here’s a glimpse of the first morning back at Riverview School in Glenwood Springs.
Interspersed with lessons about the new safety routines, students jump right into academics. Teacher Sadie Elliott leads a reading lesson, picking up where she left off last week in distance learning. Ricardo raises his hand. “Can I have a mask break?” he asks.
Ms. Elliott tells him to walk to the break center in the hallway and start the timer. Ricardo walks to a chair right outside the classroom, flops over an hourglass timer, and removes one of the ear loops on his mask. He listens to the lesson through the open door, and returns to his classroom when the sand runs down.
Family liaison Missael Urtiaga Gutierrez reports, “We only had one kindergartener crying, so that’s a good sign for the first day of school.” Although kindergarten has been offered remotely, for some children, this is their first time in the school building. It’s hard to tell that they haven’t been together since the start of the school year — they sit in neat rows, three feet apart, listening to their teacher and asking their questions.
In the hallways, Dean of Instruction Julie Ramey helps a group of first graders learn the new routines.
“Remember to keep some space between you,” she says. “Walk on the right side of the line.”
Ms. Ramey has taken over the first-grade class because the class’s regular teacher will be teaching in the online school with students whose families chose that option. Ms. Ramey seems already to know her students well.
Principal Adam Volek is in his office assembling gift bags for all the teachers to celebrate the first day of in-person learning for grades PreK-3, and to thank the teachers for their hard work getting ready. He reports that it was a relatively smooth start. The buses arrived on time, parents cooperated with the distancing requirements — they aren’t allowed to walk their students into the building — and students got right down to business.
“We had to send a first-grader home with a runny nose today,” Mr. Volek reports. “He gets a work packet for a couple days and we’re going to try out a camera in the classroom so that he can watch from home.”
The student will have to stay home for at least 48 hours or longer until this minor symptom resolves. This will be happening throughout the year as students show mild symptoms that normally wouldn’t even be noticed.
STEM teacher Ryan Allen is setting up his classroom for a remote lesson.
“We are doing specials remotely to avoid introducing too many people into a cohort,” he explains. “Students stay in their crews and we teach from our classrooms. We’ll see how it goes and maybe introduce more in-person contact later.”
Upstairs in the middle school wing, teachers are still teaching remotely. Math teacher Holly Magee leads a class on her computer. She has a large screen TV displaying all of her students’ faces, while she looks at the math lesson on her laptop. She puts on her mask as I enter the classroom and keeps on teaching.
The kitchen staff are preparing breakfast and lunch for the students in school, plus for buses to pick up for home delivery. Students in school will eat breakfast and lunch in their cohorts, so as to avoid contact with other groups. That will continue until things return to normal.
Aside from these kinds of departures from the old routines, today looks like any other day of school. Counselor Missy Ivy says, “It just feels right to have students back in the building. It feels good to see all their faces, and they’re all excited to be here.”
Rob Stein is Superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
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