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After a year ZOOMing to school each day at home, Inner Southeast students return to their classrooms this month

DAVID F. ASHTON - Custodians at Woodstock Elementary School Jordan McNutt, Michael Brooks, and Michele Woldrich were hard at work when THE BEE came by - making the school spic and span for returning students. As summer waned and September approached, the thoughts of families and their school-age kids – as well as teachers at area schools – turned to getting back into the classroom.

THE BEE visited Woodstock Elementary School and Holy Family Catholic School, as their Principals and staff prepared for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Woodstock Elementary School ready for students

On September 1, students in the second through fifth grade were scheduled to return to classroom education; first graders and kindergarteners were to matriculate in during the week.

That's what we learned from Woodstock Elementary School's Principal Seth Johnson in mid-August.

"I'm really excited to know that the students are coming back in person," Johnson began. "But just like last year, I'm a little anxious, because there still are a lot of unknown elements. Things can change between now and opening day.

"We're doing everything we can before opening day to make sure students are going to be welcomed back, but also will be safe. There's a real mix of excitement – and also mixed in there is little bit of anxiety."

To help keep things safe, the Woodstock Elementary School custodians were busy cleaning the school from top to bottom, as teachers were readying their classrooms for returning students.

As well, the school's Secretary, Tabitha Rhodes, and new Assistant Principal Sarah Waltrip were finalizing procedures for students entering and exiting the building, as well as working to coordinate class schedules for the day.

"It's going to be great, having our students back, and again feeling part of the Woodstock School community," remarked Johnson.

When asked about the future of the school's highly-regarded Mandarin Immersion Program (MIP), Johnson told THE BEE, "Yes, it will be at Woodstock for the 2021-2022 school year.

"Phase 2 of the 'SE Guiding Coalition's' work will resume in late August, to focus on four areas: Harrison Park K-8, Creative Science K-8, Lane Middle School – specifically on Middle School Redesign for Special Education, Dual Language Instruction (DLI), and English Language Development."

There is the potential for changes to the program in the future, acknowledged Johnson – with a focus on middle school, in the SE Guiding Coalition's work; but he added that he doesn't expect any changes for the 2021-2022 school year, at any rate. "Families are encouraged to follow the 'SE Guiding Coalition' meetings and updates, as well as to engage when possible."

Information about the Enrollment and Program Balancing Process, including links to the meetings, can be found online – www.pps.net/enrollmentbalancing

Holy Family Catholic School to resume in-classroom

DAVID F. ASHTON - Second Grade Teacher Mary Burtram was busy preparing her classroom at Holy Family Catholic School. The room was empty then, but it will be full of kids after Labor Day. The faculty and staff at Holy Family Catholic School, situated on the eastern edge of the Eastmoreland neighborhood, were also industriously preparing their campus for the return of students – this year, on September 7.

Asked to compare and contrast the start of last year with the start of this year, the school's Principal Joe Galati responded, "Really, there is simply no real comparison.

"The difference this year is that we are starting the school year together with our students who will be here, on campus, full-time," Galati continued. "Our teachers are motivated and excited – and, for me, four words sums it up: 'I can hardly wait'!

"Last year we started out with online digital education; by January, 2021, we'd brought in kindergarten through fifth grade students – and, just before spring vacation, we brought in all middle school students," recalled Galati.

"In-classroom – talk about a game changer! Kids being here means the world to us – and also to our kids; they'll get the education that they so desperately need and deserve," Galati said, before hustling off to meet with the school's staff.

We sought to meet with other elementary schools to learn of the steps they were taking, but we were unable to reach most of them in time to prepare this article – no doubt because of the many important things each was busy with in order to open their schools on time. So this public school, and this private school, will represent the work all our public and private schools were busy with, in August, to bring kids back into the classroom this month.


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