Starting back to school is always hectic and stressful for teachers, staff and administrators. But it’s never been so more than it is this year.
For several county schools, Monday, August 10 was the first day back for those folks, with students due later in the week. Typically the first day is full of state-mandated workshops, and those still had to be completed, but the hot topic on the list this year is the impact of COVID-19 on school operations.
This year, as opposed to previous years where all school employees met together for in-service, smaller group settings were found scattered around the campus.
In a faculty meeting with his teachers, Marietta High School Principal Adam Sherfield preached flexibility and common sense.
“We have a good plan, and we need to be familiar with it,” he said. “Spreading kids out in classrooms, using a seating chart, controlling traffic flow in the halls, modeling mask wearing, we just need to use common sense, and I believe we will.”
The school’s re-entry plan also includes the option for distance learning if/when necessary, and Sherfield encouraged his faculty to be prepared for that.
“Above all,” remarked Sherfield, “we need to be flexible. We have no idea what this year will bring, so we must plan ahead and be prepared for change.”
Most of the teachers voiced their readiness to begin the year after the pandemic forced an extra-long summer break for them.
“I’m ready to get back to normal,” said English teacher Tonya Bucher. “It’s like the whole world stopped for us last March, and our routine with it. Kids need that sense of normalcy and routine, and for most, school is what provides it.”
Bucher is prepared to switch on a dime to distance learning.
“I already use digital textbooks, so everything is online. If we do have to go back and forth, that won’t be a problem for me,” she said, “but I know there will be issues with kids and connectivity.”
Veteran teacher Amanda Faulkenberry said that the threat of the virus doesn’t worry her nearly as much as changing the way she teaches if distance learning is necessary.
Longtime biology teacher Charles Brown also says he isn’t too worried about the COVID-19 threat.
“We need to be respectful of the virus,” he said, “but I’m not going to lock myself in my house, either. I trust that God will take care of me, one way or the other.”
High school secretary Michaela Sanchez said she knows that exposure to the virus is likely, but her plan is to do all she can to stay healthy.
“I’m going to wash my hands a lot,” she said with a smile, “and I’m going to put myself in God’s hands.”
Sherfield referred several times to the school’s re-entry plan.
“We are going to operate with a heightened awareness and pay closer attention to things,” he said, “but I believe that we are ready. Our plan is thorough and I think we are as prepared as we can be. I’m choosing to be optimistic and look forward to a good year.”