Despite a host of new guidelines in place for COVID-19, the opening days of school went well for Swanton and Delta students, according to their superintendents.
“The first couple of days have gone really well for us,” said Swanton Superintendent Chris Lake. “Overall the response from the community has been very positive. Many parents have thanked me for getting the kids back in school five days a week.”
When school began on Wednesday, everyone being clad in masks was one of the first noticeable changes when arriving at school. They are required in Ohio for all K-12 students and staff, under most circumstances.
“The students have adjusted well to the safety procedures and only a very few kids came to school without a mask,” Lake said. “Thanks to the generosity of the community we have hundreds of cloth masks on hand for kids to wear. We gave the kids without a mask one to put on and there were no issues at all.”
Other safety measures implemented include desk barriers, a bigger focus on hand washing and sanitizing, and spacing students farther apart in classes and at lunch.
“The biggest difficulty for the smaller kids is having to carry the folding desk barriers around from class to class in the middle school. We are brainstorming ways to make it easier for the kids to take them around the school,” said Lake.
The biggest challenge for the teachers so far is getting used to addressing a class with a mask on, he added. Many teachers have purchased small voice amplifiers to aid communication and the district is exploring the possibility of purchasing more.
“The other big difference is that the classrooms are set up so that students are spread out and behind barriers in their own little bubble,” said Lake. “I think most of our people are used to classrooms being full of life and the chatter of kids. The masks seem to be quieting things down for now, I think that will change as everyone settles in to the year.”
An online learning option offered by the district has also allowed for more social distancing in buildings. Over 200 students have joined Swanton Virtual Academy.
“I am very happy that we were able to start the year off with in person learning,” said Lake. “So far everyone is adjusting very well to this new reality and with their cooperation we hope to make a good long run at being face to face. School buildings are not meant to sit empty, they are meant to be full of teachers and students, they are meant to be full of life and noise and learning.”
It has been a similar experience at the schools in Delta.
“Overall, the first few days were fantastic. It was great to see students back in the buildings again,” said Pike-Delta-York Superintendent Ted Haselman. “The PDY students and staff did an amazing job being mindful of the new safety and health protocols implemented.”
Students are resilient and did everything asked of them, he added.
For those that preferred an online option for the first semester, the Panther Virtual Academy was available, with 125 students taking advantage.
Haselman said there have been many changes, adjustments, and modifications made within PDY buildings and all are important to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
“I commend our PDY staff as they did a wonderful job explaining the expectations required and the new normal to our students,” he said. “The staff’s leadership during this challenge has been amazing and the team effort has allowed us to meet this challenge head on.”
With a short first week and staggered starts behind them, area students can get into a more normal routine this week, even if not everything around them is routine.
“We know we can bring students and staff back to school safely,” said Haselman. “While it will take everyone being very conscientious, cooperative, and flexible, it is what’s best for our students and community.”
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010