Above: Fifth grade teachers, from left, Danielle Veyera, Dale Wildenhain, and Hannah Magarian work after hours Thursday to prepare for Monday’s start.
After months of preparation and speculation, it’s showtime for Rhode Island public schools. The first day of school (in-person and distance) is Monday, Sept. 14.
In East Greenwich, the public schools got their state “walkthroughs” on Tuesday and they did well. EG schools are ready. But what does that look like? We got a tour of Eldredge on Thursday.
“Eldredge is still Eldredge,” said Principal Dan Seger at the outset. “And the start of a new year is always an exciting time of year.”
For at least the first three weeks, the in-person students will be divided into two “cohorts.” Classrooms are set up with the maximum number of desks, but only half will be used for two days and the other half for the other two days. The idea is that everyone has their own desk that is not used by anyone else.
Each classroom has portable fans to pull the room air out so fresh air can come in. The goal, says Seger, is to change over the air in each room frequently.
The nurse’s office remains just as it’s always been, but now there’s a room right next door for any students with virus-like symptoms. There’s another room down the hall for students who need to be picked up because of illness.
“We’ve been on a treadmill since March, but school nurses really have,” said Seger.
“I’m just really, really proud of the resilience – collectively – that we demonstrated. The culture of this building is we’re here for kids. Whatever that means, whatever that looks like. If it means we’re wearing masks all day … whatever it looks like, if we’re teaching kids and engaging with kids, life is good.”
The focus initially will be on building community, he said, acknowledging there could be some big emotional needs for students who were thrust out of their school environment last March and have been living in the pandemic world ever since.
“In many respects, parents want to make sure as their child comes back in the building he or she is supported fully,” Seger said. “Some of those needs we can anticipate, and some we might not know until the rubber hits the road…. We are trying to get back to that place of normalcy.”
Helping the all-distance-learning students feel a part of the Eldredge community is a big goal for Seger. “We have to find a way for them to feel a part of the community here and not feel disenfranchised. The social-emotional piece and the sense of belonging – that’s one of the things that keeps me up at night: Kids who are not returning to the school building, how do they feel connected to Eldredge. It’s more than the building. It’s the community that we have.”
He added, “Our charge is to give the kids the best educational experience we can possibly give them … no matter what we’re doing. We’re going to roll with the punches – it’s going to be one of those years.”
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