Three rural school districts were among the first in Texas to head back to school to start the new year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
At Godley Elementary School, principal Keri Grimsley prepared parents for a big change in the rituals that go with the first day of school. Rules about social distancing prevented parents from walking their little ones to class on the first day.
“I know it was really disappointing when we said we would not allow parents to walk their students to class on the first day, but I promise we're going to take care of your babies and it is going to be awesome. So, we are ready to have them,” Grimsley said in a video posted a few days before school started.
“Anybody that's sent their 4-year-old or their 5-year-old off for the first day of school understands,” Dublin ISD Superintendent Rodney Schneider said. He, too, had to let parents know their kids would walk to class without them on day one. Yet, he also planned for parents who may have trouble saying goodbye.
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“Part of our safety protocols is we're not going to allow anyone in the building that's not essential school personnel, just until this gets over. And so, we are going to have to do that separation outside,” he said. “We're going to have extra people at the lower grade levels, especially to help the parents.”
Dublin ISD helped parents in other ways too, providing technology training so parents and students would be ready to go on the first day. Fewer than 200 of the 1,200 students opted for at-home learning.
“Because of the rigor of the classroom, everything these kids are going to do remotely is the same thing the kids are going to do in person,” Schneider said.
Teachers will be tasked with creating lesson plans for both, as well as keeping classrooms safe and sanitized.
“We've spread tables out, we've taken chairs out. We've gotten these nosy folders out to help with sneeze guards even though the kids will be wearing masks,” said Christine Watson, a fourth and fifth-grade math teacher at Dublin Intermediate School. “We've even come up with lanyards for the kids so they don't lose their face mask at lunch or at recess. We've been coming up with different games kids could play at recess yet still be socially distanced but still have some fun."
Every teacher in the Dublin ISD will be back on campus, with about 20 coming in new.
“I am so looking forward to them being here. We miss our kids. We love our kids. Our kids are our family,” said Brandy Carr, a third-grade teacher at Dublin Elementary School
“I think Dublin is going above and beyond to keep kids safe going back to school,” said parent Pam Turner.
Turner sent two high school students to class. They wanted to participate in athletics, which is not available to remote learners. Yet Turner opted to keep her first-grade granddaughter at home.
“I know they’re first priority is the safety of the children. I appreciate that as a parent and grandparent, but our choice at this point, for her, is to keep her at home and see what happens. In six weeks, we have the option to send her back up here and that, I appreciate,” she said.
“I think we've taken lots of extra precautions and protocols but I’m going to try to make my environment as normal as possible, as well as still have some fun while we're learning,” said Watson, who is also a parent to three in the district. “As things come up, we're willing to adapt and adjust and do what we need to to keep everybody safe.”
Carr, too, said she believes Dublin is going above and beyond to care for students and staff.
"I think we've been trained enough that we're washing our hands properly and wearing our masks. We've also been provided face shields and the beginning of the year training has been good, so I think we're ready," she said.