COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The state’s largest school district is preparing to bring students back to full, in-person learning for the first time since before the COVID-19 health crisis.
Thursday, students in grades 1-5 will return to the classroom at Woodcrest Elementary, a year-round school in Columbus City Schools. All 305 pre-K through 5th graders will be back in the building within two weeks.
“[We’re] looking at building back academically and socially. It’s just an exciting moment,” said Woodcrest Principal Yolanda Cooper.
It will be Cooper’s first year in the district, but she says the pandemic has presented universal challenges for students. Many experienced learning loss and limited social interaction. When the school year restarts, teachers will be tasked with figuring out what gaps need to be filled.
“I think communication and flexibility are probably the best two words to describe what you need as a teacher, especially in today’s climate,” said 5th grade teacher Michael Menendez.
Cooper added, “We can show them how it is to express their feelings, to identify those feelings and also to address those feelings while they’re learning.”
Columbus City Schools has been changing its health and safety plan as public health guidance evolves. Last week, the district announced it would be requiring all staff and students to wear masks on buses and in school buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
New CDC recommendations have also influenced classroom set-ups. Partitions are no longer considered necessary and a six foot social distancing guideline has become three feet. Water fountains remain shut down and visitors are restricted to parents/guardians and student support staff.
“We want to make sure that we’re following what the guidelines are because our primary goal is to make sure our students are safe and we’re safe,” Cooper explained.
Deborah Strouse, a district health services disaster planner and school nurse at Woodcrest, is also encouraging families to help with the mitigation efforts. She explained parents or guardians should be monitoring their students for COVID-19 symptoms and reporting positive tests to the school.
“Parents have a big part in making sure that our school and our staff and our students stay safe,” Strouse said. “That’s one very early layer before they make it in the building.”
If a student shows signs of the illness during school hours, the district plans to separate the child from his/her peers and call for a parent to pick them up within 30 minutes if possible. Staff will keep records for contact tracing and potential quarantines if exposure happens in the classroom.
The district said changes to its safety plan are inevitable and health guidance and case numbers evolve. You can find the current plan by clicking here.