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Hahira Middle School reopens with intricate social distancing plans

Posted at 6:42 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 23:12:35-04

HAHIRA, Ga. (WTXL) — School bells will ring for the first time in months in Lowndes County on Friday.

Despite the coronavirus, the majority of district school children are expected to return to the classroom.

In less than 24 hours around 700 anxious students will file into the Hahira Middle School.

When students walk into Hahira Middle they'll see things like fewer class transitions, one-way hallways for certain grade levels, masks are a mandatory part of their dress code and a constant sanitizing routine for their teachers.

These changes just a few for the school as students adjust to their new normal in the pandemic.

Around 70 percent of the district's 10,000 students will settle back into the brick and mortar classrooms on Friday.

The middle school normally sees around 900 students a year, but, due to COVID-19, that number has dwindled by a little over 240 students.

Principal Ivy Smith says getting prepared wasn't easy but is worth it to see their students return.

"The cleaning process, the hand sanitizers, the different transition times has definitely been a huge undertaking but I'll tell you, our staff, and our families that we have talked to have been very encouraged by all the steps we have taken to ensure our student's safety," said Smith.

What does teaching in a pandemic look like?

Bathroom breaks are now prescheduled for students to reduce overcrowding.

Kelsey Peck teaches seventh grade Language Arts and says the changes will take some getting used to for students.

"I also expect it to be a little different to get used to everything," Peck said. "I feel like we've been prepared for everything they've given us lots of supplies. We feel comfortable about it so I'm very excited."

Only 84 students will be allowed in the cafeteria during lunch and spaced apart by marker tape, and students will be allowed to use outdoor seating as well. ​

A system has also been put in place so students with lockers side-by-side won't go for their supplies at the same time.

"Every teacher has a face shield and a mask, so when we're up teaching we wear our face shield but when we come close to students that's when we need to put our masks on," said Peck

Peck says before COVID-19 their job as educators were always to keep students safe, but this looks a bit different.

"They've given us a spray to use and we spray down anything that the kids touch," Peck said. "On the desk, on the top of the desk, it takes about 45 seconds for that spray to disinfect things."

Despite all the changes the district says it's worth it for a safe environment for students to learn.

"I'm really excited," said Peck. "I think it's going to be a great year. As long as everybody stays positive we'll be good."

Hahira students in brick and mortar will also have training for digital learning in the event that they have to close schools again.