This was the second week of start of hybrid learning for Manchester Essex Regional School District elementary students. Last week it was grades K-2 that returned to school. This week, the district continued, welcoming students from grades 3-5 at both Manchester Memorial School and Essex Elementary to a partial, in-person learning program.
As a result, starting now, all elementary schoolers are participating in an in-person school day for at least two days each week. Students have been grouped into cohorts and assigned schedules so that they can interact with peers in the classroom while still limiting contact and maintaining distance. These cohorts have also been organized so that siblings from the same families are, at least for the most part, going into school together.
So far, it seems the move is off to a great start. Memorial School Principal John Willis said there was a lot of anticipation and waiting, especially among elementary school families, but once the kids returned, he said, “It was kind of like riding a bike.”
“It’s actually been magical to have them back in the hallways and classrooms,” Willis told The Cricket. He said credit lies firmly with the Memorial teachers. “I’m blown away by how hard they’ve worked,” he said. “Every one of them.”
Similarly, Essex Elementary Principal, Dr. Jennifer Roberts, said, “So awesome to have students back in the building!”
Up until last week, all students in the district were on an all-remote program, with teachers in schools teaching from their classroom. Middle and High School students remain on a remote program.
District officials decided on a remote-only return to school amid a wave of debate by parents, students and state officials. In the end, it was “the best among bad choices,” said MERSD Superintendent Pamela Beaudoin. She cited the disruption of rolling closures due to positive testing for COVID (which has happened this year in the school district). The hybrid approach was expensive. The building was not ideal for proper spacing. And besides, she said, access to limited resources—like substitute teachers—would force a competition among schools vying for the same staff and equipment.
Even before the school year began, however, the district knew for elementary school kids, remote learning would be a challenge.
For these children, maintaining focus on classwork with teachers on screens for several hours remains difficult, even for the most studious of children. Boredom and distraction are always within reach for elementary school children. Successful virtual learning takes a lot more work, from everyone involved. Students are expected to practice more discipline than ever, parents are expected to provide supervision, and teachers are expected to get unbelievably creative with their lesson planning. It’s tough. In-person classes for part of every week will surely lighten the load, particularly for the families.
Of course, like with everything else in the pandemic, everyone will have to proceed with caution and take things one day at a time.
File this under, “Stay tuned.”