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Back-to-school tour shows what school will look like during the pandemic

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 6:44 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2020 at 7:35 AM EDT
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ESSEX JCT., Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont students head back to school on Tuesday and things will be different.

Adjustments have been made inside and outside the classroom, but according to Diana Smith, the COVID Coordinator in the Essex Westford School District, they are optimistic they won’t miss a beat.

“The person taking their temperature is going to be wearing this face shield and a pair of gloves,” said Smith.

At the Founders Memorial School in Essex Junction, there are three entrances, one for each grade, ready to take students.

The first stop is a temperature check.

Parents will then need to be able to answer two questions: Does your child have any COVID-19 symptoms and have you been exposed to the COVID-19 virus that you know of?

“Each grade level has been assigned a stairwell. We have three sets of stairs,” said Smith.

She says the point of a strategic welcome plan is to limit contact with other students not in their assigned group. The students are expected to come to school staggered in a 30-minute window and head to their classrooms.

“We’ve got reminders to stay six feet apart and we also have direction arrows, which is new for us,” said Smith.

But once they reach the classroom, students won’t be leaving much. In order to limit contact, students will be staying put for the day, while classes like art and music, come to them. But the classroom will also have a different feel.

“If I’m teaching from this position, and I have some distance, I’ll be able to take my mask off, put on my screen to maybe be able to do a read aloud,” said Joe White, a fourth-grade teacher at Founders School.

He says masks will be a barrier they will have to work with, emphasizing verbalizing how the students are feeling because teachers can’t read their faces.

White says the school will prioritize using outdoor classrooms, but when they can’t hit the outdoors, because students will be in their classrooms all day, movement will be necessary.

“Getting up, getting movement breaks, even though you can’t move to someone else’s space, we are trying to make sure that all supplies all interaction is kind of self quarantined to every child,” said White.

Smith says to limit students moving around the school, unified arts classes will be coming to the students.

“The kids are used to we have wonderful music rooms. We have two music teachers and a room for each of them we have an art room, we have a great big gym and the kids won’t be going to those bases anymore, the adults will be going to them instead to decrease the movement around. So they will stay with their small groups in their classroom. We are hoping to go outside as much as we can and we are hoping for a wonderful fall,” said Smith.

And according to her, there is still one word that is going to carry them through the first few weeks.

“We always find in education that there is a buzz word that we have for the year, it’s something we are focusing on, and I think if I had to pick one myself for this year it would be flexibility,” said Smith.

Now, as long as the weather is nice, there is an emphasis on getting kids outside for mask and movement breaks.

Students can also move around the school to get their lunches and Smith says those movement breaks are going to be critical for students because they know they can’t sit in a room all day long.

When it is time for dismissal, the students will be sent out the same doorway that they came in to limit exposure.

Faculty and staff will be required to sign in and out of the rooms they go to. There will also be no visitors inside the building to start the year.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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