Welcome back class

GMG schools return amid a new learning landscape

Students at GMG Elementary head into the building at the beginning of their first day of school on September 3. The return to classes at GMG was slightly delayed this year due to the power outages and damage from the August 10 derecho. Darvin Graham/Sun Courier

After more than 170 days watching, waiting, video chatting, and quarantining; students and staff at Green Mountain-Garwin Community School District finally had the opportunity to return to class.

The first day of school came on Thursday for grades K-9 and on Friday for grades 10-12 and was met with excitement and anticipation. School staff have been hard at work over the summer preparing to hold classes with new COVID-19 safety procedures and students simply wondering when they could see their friends again.

Morning arrival at the GMG Elementary building was a bustling hub of energy as teachers stood at the entrance to greet their students with posters and words of encouragement on their first day back to class. Elementary Principal Chris Frimml was busy communicating with buses upon their arrival so students exiting buses and entering the building could do so in their class cohort with minimal cross traffic happening between grade levels.

Parents who brought their students to school hung around for the obligatory first day of school photo session and left their kids with hugs, encouragement, and a few tears.

Although the first day of school is often full of its own unique emotions, activities, and challenges; the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools across the country to implement new procedures so that school can continue with an eye toward safety and coronavirus prevention.

A student at GMG Elementary is happy to see his teacher on the first day of school. Classes began for GMG Elementary students on Sept. 3. Darvin Graham/Sun Courier

At GMG students began the school year using an on site model of instruction where all grade levels returned to the classrooms five days per week. Staff members as well as students grades 3-12 are required to wear personal protective equipment including face coverings during the day, particularly in the hallways, on buses, and times when social distancing cannot easily be followed. Students in grades K-2 are encouraged but not required to wear face coverings.

Elementary classes may take an increased number of breaks throughout the day to provide for hand washing opportunities.

The district has indicated they are working on installing medical-grade air purifiers for every classroom as well as the main office building.

Touchless thermometers will be used to spot check students and staff or for anyone exhibiting potential COVID-19 symptoms.

Classrooms have been spaced out to allow for students, in most cases, to be socially distanced in class.

Traffic flow through the school day was considered in preparation and protocols such as staggered arrival times were put in place to avoid cross-traffic in the hallways or entering and exiting the buildings.

Students were also asked to bring their own water bottle to school as the use of drinking fountains is temporarily prohibited.

Some of the hallmark activities of a traditional first day back to school were adjusted or postponed such as a first day assembly.

While the majority of GMG students have returned to on site learning, families were still given the option to keep their student on 100% virtual instruction.

Teachers are utilizing online programs such as Seesaw or Google Classroom to deliver assignments and instructions at home.