First day of school 2020

Seadrift Instructional Aid Jessica Woolridge, left, and Seadrift Counselor Dana Durham take pre-kindergarten student Zailyn Rasmussen to get her temperature checked on the first day back at school Friday, Aug. 14. (Jared Van Epps/ Wave Photos)

Calhoun County ISD begins a new school year but under different circumstances.

The 2020-21 school year began with several students returning to school on set dates for orientation in face-to-face instruction, while some chose E-Learning Academy.

The last time students had a chance to see their teachers was in March, and teachers, staff, and the principal at CCISD have anticipated their students’ return.

“We have been anticipating this moment since last March, and everyone is super excited about having students back in the building.” HJM Principal Tiffany O’Donnell said.

Port O’Connor Elementary Principal Kelly Wehmeyer said she and her staff were “excited” to have the students back to school.

“We have really missed interacting with the children in person, and it was great getting to have them back in class, even if just for one day,” Wehmeyer said.

O’Donnell and Wehmeyer talked about the challenges that their schools face under the COVID-19 pandemic.

O’Donnell and HJM had to “completely” rebuild their master schedule for “the safety” of their “students and staff.”

“Although it has been a challenge, it is worth every ounce of sweat put into it in order to have students and staff back,” O’Donnell said.

One of the challenges that POC is “social distancing,” Wehmeyer said.

“Classroom size and keeping desks six feet apart, adjusting lunch times to allow the students to sit six feet apart, using our auditorium for some grade levels to eat lunch,” Wehmeyer said. “Teaching the students to stay six feet apart when walking in line, not being able to interact with each other in class, and not being able to work in small groups are just a few of the social distancing challenges we are facing.”

Masks weren’t a problem during the first day of school. Students came to their respective campuses with masks on when entering.

“During our orientation week, the kids did a great job wearing their masks,” Wehmeyer said. “We had some problems with the younger kids playing with their mask or the mask falling down below their nose, but other than that, it really was much better than we anticipated.”

O’Donnell and Wehmeyer talked about their preparation for reopening their campuses.

O’Donnell said, “flexibility is absolutely necessary” for her school, and she added as they start the new school year, her “faculty has done an amazing job making adjustments in order to meet the latest safety recommendations.”

One of the biggest lessons learned prepping for POC’s new school year is to be flexible, Wehmeyer said.

“Things change on a daily basis, and the district has kept us informed,” Wehmeyer said. “The teachers have been working tirelessly to prepare their classrooms to ensure our students will have a safe learning environment when they return to campus.”

Port O’Connor Elementary has been preparing for the first three weeks of online teaching, Wehmeyer said, “and making sure the students will be engaged and learning.”

“The district has gone above and beyond to ensure that we are prepared,” Wehmeyer said. “The district has been working with us on how to make our schedules work while maintaining social distancing throughout the campus.”

During the first week of school, the campuses staff was checking the temperatures of its staff and students.

The CCISD school board approved the purchase of thermal cameras in July’s meeting for the big four campuses (HJM, JR, Travis, and CHS) and temperature check devices for POC Elementary and Seadrift School.

O’Donnell and Wehmeyer talked about the temperature-measuring technology the board approved and making sure that each campus can reopen safely.

“Any measure that can be taken to help ensure the safety of our students and staff is worth the cost,” O’Donnell said. “We appreciate our school board and their constant support.”

Seadrift School used temperature tablets at their campus, while Port O’Connor used non-contact thermometers.

“Our teachers will take the students’ temperatures every day with a non-contact thermometer,” Wehmeyer said. “All guests, teachers, and staff will have their temperature taken the same way.”

Wehmeyer talked about what she is looking forward to in the new school year, and she said she’s looking forward to having the students back and is “excited to get to a ‘normal as possible’ school year.”

CCISD students who have chosen face-to-face instruction will return to campus Tuesday, September 8.