Lowndes County Schools report no major issues on first-day back

Posted at 6:17 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-15 00:32:57-04

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. (WTXL) — Lowndes County students returned to their classrooms after months at home due to COVID-19.

The reopening comes after the district delayed the start date by a week.

The district says for the most part the transition back into classrooms was smooth even though when students returned to school things were a bit different than when they left.

"We have multiple precautions that have been in place in terms of cleaning our buildings cleaning our buses," said Wes Taylor, the superintendent at Westside Elementary. "Day to day sanitation will be going on throughout the buildings."

Taylor says brick and mortar schools are prepared for education and despite the pandemic, he has high expectations for the school year.

"Our goal is to mitigate the risk," Taylor said. "Behave responsibly and be smart about it."

Students now wearing face coverings. Sanitation stations are throughout the school and there is a bit more space in between their desks for social distancing.

"We use hand sanitizer," said Gabriel Haynes, a pre-k student at Westside Elementary.

All things that present a bit of challenge in elementary schools.

That's why for Pre-K teacher Bari Hallman the first thing on her agenda is making sure students understand why all those changes are so important.

The first step in reducing the risk is educating their students, something that Hallman started with Friday morning.

"We've already shown a video about wearing masks," said Hallman. "We've already talked about the importance of wearing masks, and with pre-k, it's a lot easier for us because they have to get used to the norms anyway."

Hallman says with younger age groups it's easier to enforce wearing the masks because they have little experience on what school looked like prior to COVID-19, another change this year.

"For the kids, there have only been a couple that have had a hard time keeping it on, but we just remind them very quickly," said Hallman. "We're trying to normalize it as much as we possibly can. We've already shown a video about wearing masks we've already talked about the importance of wearing masks."

When walking down the hallway students are one behind the other, no buddies or partnering up. They're also told to try to keep their distance from friends and even teachers to prevent infection.

Included in the district's plans to keep students safe are assigned seats on buses and deep cleaning of playgrounds in between recess periods.

Some parents say they felt comfortable with those safety measures while others say it wasn't enough.

"They felt comfortable with the masks and open house was wonderful, I came with for that," said Terri Lenzen, the grandparent of Westside Elementary student. "And this morning they were ready to come to school."

For some students, the new norm is in front of a computer screen.

"They were scared to go back to school so I had to sign them up for virtual learning," parent Deandria Coxfield said. "But we're excited to see how this is going to work."

The district has provided Chromebooks for students learning at home and says things have been running smoothly both online and in the classrooms.

"We're just going to be patient, kind, and extend grace and hope everybody does the same for us," Hallman said.

After school care will start Monday.

If you have a student working from home their schools will be providing lunches for them for the week, just call their school for pickup dates.