CLEVELAND — School districts across Northeast Ohio are preparing for their first days back in the classroom.
Officials from each one are implementing the safety protocols they think will best protect students, teachers, and staff.
Archbishop Lyke School in Cleveland welcomed students back on Monday. In the first three days of class, they’ve endured not only extreme heat, but also the challenges of educating during a pandemic.
Administrators, teachers and students News 5 spoke with said they’re determined to make this school year as normal as possible.
For second-year kindergarten teacher Tamiya Warren, this school year was already going to be uncharted territory.
“My very first year, I was able to go off of someone else's flow,” said Warren. “So this year, I had to create the rules and regulations. This year, I had to create the activities so I was a lot more hands-on this school year than I have been previously.”
The pandemic and the rise of the Delta variant has made her preparations that much more unpredictable.
“Just pray and patience, that was the only thing that I could prepare myself for because we really didn't know exactly what we were coming into,” said Warren.
Warren said she’s used to rolling with the punches because she did it all last year, but don’t get her wrong--she’s not coming into this unequipped.
Principal Nancy Lynch and other administrators came up with a plan to make sure students can learn and socialize safely.
“We have ventilation in all of our classrooms. We have a good circulation. We have water available for our students,” said Lynch. “We do temperature checks on our students when they come into the building.”
The school is also mandating masks.
“All of our faculty, staff, anybody who is in the building and our students must be masked, whether they have been vaccinated or not,” said Lynch. “We have mask breaks that students are able to get outside, move around, run around and have mask breaks frequently as well.”
After three days, they said the mask-wearing has been going well.
“They did okay, they did okay,” said Warren of her kindergarten class. “I may have to give out more than usual but for the most part my kindergartners did a very good job with keeping their mask on.”
As for making sure they keep them on throughout the rest of the year, she said they’re going to take things day by day.
“It’s just something we're going to have to keep working on. Each day the kids come in a new way so just adapting and adjusting is a part of the routine,” said Warren.
Some students News 5 spoke with aren’t thrilled to wear masks, but they understand the reasoning behind the rule and they’re willing to make the sacrifice.
“It's really hot, but it's to protect myself from getting COVID,” said student Tenniya Benford.
“The mask protects us all, it keeps us together because without these masks, we wouldn't all be here as one community again,” said student Leana Woods.
Both Benford and Woods are enjoying having a full classroom of their peers once again. The school offered a hybrid model last year. Benford studied remotely last year, while Woods stuck to in-person learning.
“It's really fun now. Its really good and fun. We talk a lot at recess,” said Benford.
“I love the new people. I love meeting new people, our new students, I love them a lot. They're very nice and I welcome them to our Archbishop community,” said Woods.
Teachers are also enjoying the return to in-person learning five days a week.
“In-person learning is better for our children, it allows us to have the human interaction that we need,” said Warren. “It allows us to see what the kids know and what the kids don't know. It allows me to step in as the teacher and say ‘Hey, can I help you learn it another way,’ versus on a computer, it's not really hands on. It's really just one style of learning. And we're all together, we're better together than we are apart.”
Lynch said administrators are being cautious as COVID-19 cases continue to rise as a result of the delta variant, but they’re optimistic about the future.
“There's always concerns, it's always there in the back of our mind, but I feel that we are staying on top of the current information, we are communicating with our parents. We are working together as a community to ensure the safety of our students and that's the foremost and important piece of all this right now,” said Lynch. “So am I concerned? Yes, there is a bit of a concern, but the way we are operating in our building, I'm really satisfied and confident that we're going to be able to continue.”
Warren is also confident in the school’s protocols and is overjoyed to be back in the classroom with her students again.
“I’m excited to be back. I love being with my students to be able to hug them, to let them know 'Hey I'm here if you need something let me know.' To hear, ‘Miss Warren, Miss Warren,’ is just--it's a great feeling to be back.”
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