PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - In-person learning began Tuesday for students and teachers across Pender County.
After a one day delay of in-person learning after several teachers within the district took their concerns to the school board, students and teachers now fill the halls.
“We’ve anticipated welcoming our children back since March,” said April Perkins, the Principal at Rocky Point Elementary. “Very excited to bring them back. This new normal is interesting, but our families did a great job this morning at drop off and we’re just excited to have our kids back in the building.”
Students started arriving at seven Tuesday morning.
“I’m just hoping they’ll be okay,” said John, a parent of a Rocky Point Elementary School fourth grader. “I’m really nervous, but I think they’ll be okay. They have a pretty nice system set up here.”
For those whose parents dropped them off, their temperatures were checked before getting out of the car. They were then given a sticker to assure their teacher that they were safe to enter the building.
“We just hope this virus won’t spread,” said Jennifer Sanchez, the parent of a kindergarten and first grader at Rocky Point Elementary School. “Hopefully, they have good measurements for the kids.”
Masks were kept on as students went inside and Alex Riley, public information officer with Pender County Schools says it should stay that way for most of the day.
“We’re asking students to wear the mask as much as possible,” said Riley. “There will be opportunities to take it off and relax for a moment, on an individual basis. Obviously, eating, drinking, stuff like that, you can [take it off.]”
To ensure safety of students, desks are spaced out.
“All of our desks are six-feet apart, chair-to-chair,” said Perkins. “All of the students are facing the same direction. It kind of resembles the classroom of the 1800′s.”
Riley says there are also fewer kids in a classroom at one time.
“Most of our teachers are accustomed to handling somewhere between 20 or so kids, but now it’s down to ten or 11,” said Riley. He says about three-quarters of Pender County students will be back in classrooms this fall, but they have the option to switch to online at any point.
“If you come today and you go into the school building and at the end of the day the student is like, ‘maybe going back wasn’t the right thing,’ you can contact your school and switch to online learning immediately,” said Riley. “Once you switch to online, you’re in online for the entire semester.”
One concern school officials and parents face is the internet connection in some parts of the county and Riley says they have recognized that.
“Every school is a hot spot. If you get a district-issued Chromebook, which every student has the ability to get, you can pull up into the parking lot and there is certain markers that will be set out that will say ‘this is where the hotspot is.’ You can sit there and access the internet at anytime. That way you can engage with your work, download things and have them available for you to work on them at home. That’s what we can do right now.”
Riley says the school district is trying to work with some partners to maybe get some hotspots available at some point for students who are in need, but that is still a work in progress.
“Our students need our teachers face-to-face,” said Perkins. “We’re thankful for the families willing to give us a try and trusting us with them. We know it’s a scary time because of the unknown with COVID. We are very excited to be able to teach them hands-on in the classroom, obviously with lots of social distancing. We know that having them in the building with us is the best thing for our students.”