What some Vt. classrooms look like as students head back to school

Tuesday marks the first day back to school for some Vermont students. But what will the classroom look like?
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 7:12 AM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s the first day of school for some students in our region, but what will classrooms look like this year?

During the height of the pandemic, South Burlington High School re-imagined what a classroom looked like by getting rid of desks, typical desk chairs and lockers. Those things are back now as more than 1,000 people are expected back in the high school for the first time since March 2020.

School administrators say it’s nerve-wracking but it’s mostly business as usual.

“Throughout last year we started moving furniture back into our classrooms,” said John Craig, the high school’s assistant principal.

He says classrooms are starting to look a little more normal and seeing students in person is making it feel more like school again.

“Picking up their laptops for the year and seeing everyone’s masked faces has been good,” Craig said.

Laptops and Chromebooks are still the go-to, but desks are back. Hallways lack distancing arrows and outside learning will still be on the table. Lockers are also back in use, but leaders aren’t sure if they’ll be put to use.

“Maybe since they weren’t able to use them last year, maybe they will come back in style,” Craig said.

In the Upper Valley, lockers won’t make a come back at Hartford High School.

“We did end up eliminating a number of lockers and that did open up the hallways quite a bit,” Principal Nelson Fogg said.

Fogg says students didn’t miss them and it did provide the needed space. Like South Burlington, they also adjusted classrooms but learned something along the journey of remote learning.

“We are just re-imagining what a classroom is. A classroom is no longer a brick and mortar box, a classroom is where your students are,” Fogg said.

While they did still eliminate excess furniture, invest in chairs and tents for outdoor learning, and are leaving the plexiglass, Fogg says those investments aren’t COVID investments, but long-term investments.

“The stuff that we did last year in the building will live on and having things like wider hallways -- it’s great during COVID but it’s good forever,” he said.

School leaders at South Burlington High School echo the idea of long-term investments. They say it can make learning better, and allow a sense of “normal” teaching to begin again.

“We are cautiously excited and we have been looking forward to this day for a long time, too,” said Craig.

Full in-person learning begins Tuesday in both school districts.

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