AKRON, Ohio — Shannon Gregg walked into her fifth grade classroom at Findley Elementary School in Akron for the first time since March and let out a sigh.
"It's hard because this is home. To not have been here for so long, it brings sadness," she said.
Gregg wishes she could start the 2020-2021 school year in her classroom with about 25 students, but instead she's preparing a virtual classroom from her home.
The Akron School Board recently decided to begin the school year with the first nine weeks online. The board hasn't approved a date for the first day of school yet.
Gregg is using an office in her home to set up her plan to instruct the kids.
She will use Google Classroom and also created a class website. In addition, she made a "meet our class" page to help the kids build connections with each other.
"When they click on that student's name, it will actually have a picture of that student and the student can share any information about them," Gregg said.
The teacher is also recording her voice as she reads books, which she'll play for the kids during part of the virtual learning. She also has a whiteboard on a wall to write out math problems and other classroom assignments.
"This is a great opportunity for educators to be innovative and for us to showcase our students' abilities," Gregg said.
Gregg believes the decision to delay in-person schooling was the right call because of health, safety and social distancing concerns during the pandemic, but said some teachers have felt backlash.
"From other people, just feeling that all teachers should be going back to work and that we shouldn't have reservations," Gregg said. "I truly feel that they (APS) looked at the data, the trends, everything that was going on and made a decision that was really best for our student population."
Gregg said while she's focusing on being the best fifth grade virtual teacher she can be, she's also hoping teachers and kids will be able to return to school buildings later this year.
"There is not a doubt in any educator's mind, we would rather be with our students," she said.
However, Gregg has questions with uncertainty swirling around the pandemic, including when will teachers be allowed into classroom to set up for a possible in-person return? And what happens after nine weeks?
"Will we wait and see what happens after nine weeks and then set up the rooms?" she asked. "When will we get to be home?"
For now, she continues to work from her home that she shares with her husband and two children and is approaching the challenging time as a teacher would: a learning experience.
"It will turn out teaching us all a lot."