Returning to class in Tigard-Tualatin
James Templeton Elementary School principal Carrie Ferguson said the first day of hybrid, half-day learning came off without a hitch Monday, March 29, as kindergartners and first-graders entered classrooms for the first time in a year.
That meant about 25 kindergartners and 25 first-graders in the morning classes, followed by same number for afternoon classes.
"Everyone's just so happy to see the kids," Ferguson said Monday afternoon about her staff. "It's been a long time (since) they've seen their faces and got to personally interact with the so there was a lot of positive energy in the building."
Since students had been gone for so long, much of that first day was reserved for COVID-19 protocols including teaching students to always wear their masks, social distancing requirements and other pandemic prevention.
Not surprisingly, the most unique physical addition to the classroom are the now-standard clear, trifold dividers that sit on each students' desk to provide them with extra protection in case a student sneezes or coughs.
The Tigard-Tualatin School District has ordered enough of the dividers for every student in the district, Ferguson said.
But while pandemic protocols were being taught — or maybe retaught, to some — there was learning going on as well.
"I went around the classrooms, and I did see counting, and I did hear practicing sight words and reading, so they're doing academics as well — but a lot of the time is spent around the team getting to know each other," said Ferguson, who has been the school's principal for five years but previously worked at the school as a first-grade teacher and reading specialist.
In a Monday morning meeting, Ferguson and her staff talked a lot about social and emotional learning, noting that teachers have been interacting with their students for a long time but this is the first time where they've actually been in the classroom together. At the same time, students are getting to know their respective teachers and what their expectations are.
The logistics of getting students to and from school was one of the things Ferguson's staff was focused on Monday as well. Ferguson said staff greeted arriving buses and cars to make sure everything went smoothly.
"There's a lot of adults that are interacting with kids and helping them find their way through the building," Ferguson noted.
Likewise, when the school day is over, students gather in the cafeteria in a socially distanced manner to await rides home. When a parent pulls up to pick up their child, an outside monitor calls a staff member to tell them to bring out a student, and they are then escorted to a waiting parent's car.
"I mean, we really over-planned, and we thought about everything we could think of that we needed to (in order to) be prepared for traffic flow through the building and transitions that were safe," she said.
While the Templeton Elementary School building is brand-new — it was completed just last year — the statewide COVID-19 pandemic shut down the building in March 2020. Now, with the hybrid in-person classes starting only now, it means that no Templeton student has made it through a full year of attending school in a classroom.
While there will be no hot cafeteria lunches for the remainder of the year, no one is expected to go hungry as well.
"We have 'grab and go' lunches that we're sending home with everyone," said Ferguson. "The lunches are packed for them, and they're delivered to the teachers right before they go home and the teachers are making sure they get into their backpacks so then they have a lunch to take home, and a breakfast as well for the next day."
Still, not everyone opted to return to the hybrid system for the remaining school year.
"I had about 38% of the population here chose to stay online; 62% of the students chose to come back in hybrid," Ferguson said.
Tuesday followed the same routine as Monday. On Wednesdays, however, students will engage in an asynchronous learning day, where they come into the building in the morning for a meeting with their teacher and then return home for online classes with that same teacher in the afternoon.
"Then on Thursday of this week, we will add our second to fifth grade students to the routine and we'll have everybody here," said Ferguson, noting that they are expecting about 25 kids in each grade in the morning and a different 25 per grade for the afternoon shift.
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