student

Maia Hammond, a pre-k 3 student in Kim Berry’s classroom at Showell Elementary School, colors while following the mask-wearing policy on the first day of in-person instruction on Sept. 28.

(Oct. 9, 2020) After three weeks of virtual learning, about 18 percent of Worcester County Public Schools students returned to in-person instruction on Sept. 28.

“We are very, very pleased of how things have gone,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said this week. “Our schools and kids and teachers and families have worked very cooperatively to make this successful.”

Taylor visited all 14 schools on the first day of in-person learning and reported seeing happy students.

“The greatest feeling I had was being able to see our kids back in our buildings,” Taylor said.

Many of the county teachers expressed a similar excitement to see their students in the classrooms.

Taylor commended the teachers for their commitment, as they deliver instruction to students virtually and in-person at this time.

“They are doing the best given the circumstances,” he said. “We’re asking our teachers to do a lot more than we ever asked them to do before to teach both in-person and virtually. But they have opened their arms and said they’re going to do the best they can, and I certainly see that going on.”

Taylor plans to evaluate the conditions of the pandemic every two weeks to bring more students back to campuses.

He said another 18 percent of students will return to in-person instruction on Oct. 12.

check-in

Debbie Doukas, the school nurse at Stephen Decatur High School, checks in Neil Elko, a 10th grader, as he returns to in-person instruction on Sept. 28.

“We just have to be consistent, and we have to stay focused on making sure that we are practicing the protocols we have in place,” Taylor said. “I have sent several reminders [and] our public relations office has sent several reminders. Those who work closely with the protocols are also checking in [and] reminding the one thing we want to do is stay focused on those protocols.”

Among those protocols to keep students and staff safe are the enforcement of mask wearing and frequent hand-washing breaks.

Taylor added that all of the schools have posters about social distancing and CDC guidelines as well as traffic pattern markings in the hallways.

“Our team principals have done just a terrific job with their staffs to get our buildings ready,” he said. “They’ve thought outside of the box to make sure that first and foremost that we keep our kids and our employees safe, and then secondly that we give our kids the best, whether it be through a social or emotional need or instructionally, give them the best opportunities given the times that we’re living in to be successful.”

For students struggling with broadband access during virtual learning, the school system has been able to buy more hotspots with funding from the Worcester County Commissioners and Worcester County Board of Education.

“We’ve reached out to those kids who don’t have [an internet] connective ability available to them,” Taylor said. “We reached out to make sure that we can get them back in our schools. They were [in] the first group and will continue to be a focus as one of the groups we want to bring back.”

BIS

Dr. Annette Wallace, Worcester County Public Schools chief operating and academic officer for grades nine through 12, observes Brianna Wehler, a sixth grader, complete an assignment at Berlin Intermediate School on Sept. 28.

As of Tuesday, Taylor said there have not been any reports of coronavirus exposures or positive tests.

“It could happen to us. We’re not unrealistic,” Taylor said. “We’re ready should that happen to deal with it with the steps we have in place.”

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