Updated: January 25, 2021 06:14 PM
Created: January 25, 2021 05:34 PM
Monday was an exciting start to the week for Duluth Public Schools with their youngest students back in the classroom again full time for the first time in months.
Teachers were ecstatic to welcome pre-k through second graders back to in-person learning again for the first time in nearly 10 months. Empty classrooms were filled again and students were excited to see their friends and teachers.
"Having them come off the bus or get dropped off through the parent parking lot is a feeling of almost overwhelming joy. There’s mixed emotions there though because I know a lot of folks are apprehensive but we are truly excited to have our kids back and all I can say is that underneath the mask there was a giant smile seeing the kids come through the door again," said Tom Cawcutt, the principal of Homecroft Elementary.
It's a moment students and families have been waiting for. As well as staff, who are well aware of the academic and emotional toll distance learning has had on some students.
"Education is a challenge in the 21st century anytime and you throw a pandemic in there and distance learning and hybrid learning. The vast majority of changes we've had to go through in the past nine months, it has been rough. We are really excited to be back and have the doors open again," said Cawcutt.
Health protocols are in place to keep everyone safe at school with health screenings, face mask requirements, social distancing, and a deep cleaning of the school every night. Now with more and more teachers getting vaccinated, they hope to see more students back in the classroom, where they belong.
"I'm hoping the vaccination of our staff is just part of the overall solution for moving beyond the pandemic," said Cawcutt.
It was also the start of a synchronous learning schedule for secondary students, an opportunity to engage with teachers and classmates through Google Meet by logging in at the same time from home for lessons.
"This is one way to engage kids a little more and get them on the schedule and hopefully help those that maybe are still trying to grasp distance learning," said Wade Petrich, a English teacher for Ordean East Middle School.
Each class has a scheduled time to meet on Google Meet two times per week for half an hour.
Petrich said before this, they had virtual office hours but noticed the need for more interaction among students, even if it's virtual. Students miss seeing their friends and teachers.
"Part of our education is that interaction of getting to to work with different students, different teachers. Virtually is not a perfect system. Face to face, that is the best, but synchronous teaching is that one step to try," said Petrich.
Duluth schools look forward to welcoming 3rd through 5th graders back on Feb. 8 and hope the synchronous learning makes a difference to students who continue distance learning.
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