The Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) District welcomed students back on Monday morning.
Washington City Schools Director of Marketing and Communications Trevor Patton explained via email, “The kids and parents were very receptive of the new protocols, and our teachers and staff were so excited to see their students in person again. It really was a great day all around.”
According to Cherry Hill Primary Principal Craig Maddux, the first day for their students (kindergarten through second grade) went well, and he is proud of both students and staff.
“Our teachers were very well-prepared to welcome our children back into a safe and caring environment. It was great to see all of their faces, hear their voices and have them back in the building,” explained Maddux. “Our students were amazing and did a great job of adjusting to our new safety protocols, including wearing masks. I would like to thank all of our parents, because it was evident that they have been working on helping their children get used to them.”
During the morning hours, traffic was slowed as numerous parents decided to drop their children off at school instead of having buses crowded, which was a request made by the district at an earlier point of time.
“Every day will get better as we adjust to our new normal, and how this school year is going to look. I want to also emphasize to parents that we will continue to work hard to make adjustments as needed and always put our children first when it comes to their safety, social-emotional well-being and academics. I am proud of everyone on our staff and all of the hard work they are putting in,” explained Maddux.
Washington High School also had a good first-day experience — one of the smoothest it has had in years, according to Washington High School Principal Tracy Rose.
“Today was fantastic. It was so great to see students again, to see students and teachers interacting in classrooms,” said Rose. “I know we’re far from normal, but it had that feeling that it used to have — all that stuff that was taken for granted before.”
Rose explained they have been using a slogan quite often: “In order for us to have tomorrow, we have to do things the right way today.”
This, according to Rose, includes different aspects related to COVID-19, including practicing social distancing, wearing masks, doing the right things in the hallways and stairwells, and being respectful of others.
“They did a fantastic job with the masks. Everyone was very respectful,” said Rose. “I very much appreciate the staff, the parents and the students for the way everyone came in informed. That was one of the smoothest first days of school that I think we’ve ever seen, and that’s in large part thanks to the parents helping us out, and everyone knowing the information ahead of time, following through with the guidance and directions — that’s the only way we’re going to keep this thing going.”
Rose also gave a special mention to all staff whose job activities are having to be done differently, including cafeteria crew and custodial crew.
A few of the new protocols the students and staff are dealing with include not using water fountains except for filling up water bottles, one-way directions on stairwells, and eating lunches in classrooms.
Currently, lunches are taken to students in classrooms rather than being served in the cafeteria. Rose explained they are trying to find ways to allow students to have a variety to choose from rather than having to take whatever is packed.
As for online learning, orientation occurred last week along with a “Q and A” session. This week there are different start dates. Parents were given the option of signing their students up for online rather than in-person learning for the first nine weeks of the school year.
Over 500 students are attending the high school in-person (approximately 88 percent), according to Rose, while approximately 130 (approximately 12 percent) are doing online learning.
On Monday, sophomores had their online classes scheduled although the other grade levels have not been scheduled yet.
“Each grade level is taking a little bit of time, but we’re going to make sure we do it right, and get them into their online learning,” said Rose. “So, we’ll continue to schedule those students and get them acclimated to that process. That’s going to be completely different to anything we have done.”
According to Rose, it will probably take most of this week to get students and parents comfortable and acclimated to the online learning process.
Due to potential challenges of staff teaching both in-person and online classes simultaneously, and not wanting online students to be sitting at a computer for seven hours straight five days a week, after speaking to other districts about their online plans, the WCHCS district chose to use its existing online provider.
That provider is FutureEd solutions, which has been used by WCHCS for five years for credit recovery courses. Essentially, students could use the service to take courses that couldn’t be offered in the typical school year. Now, students who chose the online learning will get to use this service and work at their own pace on their courses.
“I appreciate (Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey) and our board giving our parents and our students the opportunity to remain Blue Lions and seek their education in that delivery option,” said Rose. “If things calm down, and they need to or want to transition back to Washington High School, we’ll certainly welcome them and put them right into the schedule.”
A survey is planned to be sent out to parents in a couple of weeks to see how the online learning is progressing.
Although challenges are present for both in-person and online learning and will continue to be, Rose said they will continue to improve upon the various situations as well as they can. Now that students are back, student feedback can and will be considered.
“The students really stepped up today. I was very proud of them,” said Rose. “I think, overall, everyone in the building was just happy to be back in school.”
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.