Teacher Returning To In-Person Learning Is Cautious Of COVID-19, But Wants Students To Have Normalcy
This story is a part of a series WKMS is publishing this week about school reopenings in west Kentucky amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kentucky schools dismissed in-person class for students and opted for virtual learning when COVID-19 was declared a national emergency in March. On August 10, Governor Andy Beshear suggested schools wait to resume in-person learning until the end of September. However, some school administrators and teachers believe their districts have taken the extra steps to safely allow students to return to a classroom sooner.
As many Kentucky schools have chosen to open virtually, Marshall County schools returned to in-person instruction August 25.
Brad Darnall is a sixth grade math teacher at South Marshall Middle School (SMMS). Darnall says as the school year begins he would not describe himself as anxious about COVID-19, but cautious.
“I wouldn't say I'm anxious. You know, I think we're all cautious. We want to be careful. We want to make sure that we did it right. We want to make sure that we do a good job and we do all the steps necessary,” Darnall said. “You know, you can't plan for everything. I guess just do everything that you possibly know how, so that you can know, that you did your best.
Along with following CDC guidelines such as mask-wearing and sanitizing, SMMS has altered their class schedules to allow more space for social distancing in each classroom. This means reducing the students’ schedule down from a seven-period day to six periods. Resulting in the cut of one of two special “enrichment classes”, such as art, music, or PE.
“Last year, we had a seven period day. Kids got to have two enrichment periods, where they could go
to band or art or things like that. But this year, we actually will have a six-period day, kids will have one enrichment,” Darnall said. “That allows us to rearrange some enrichment teachers to be able to help spread out the kids and lower the numbers in the classrooms.”
This is necessary according to Darnall, as he expects the majority of students will return to campus.
“We did a survey and then also made phone calls for anyone who didn't complete the survey. And so we were pretty well able to estimate that we're expecting about 70% of our kids to be in person and about 30% be virtual,” Darnall said. “We know there's a lot of parents who need the schools open, and we're trying to do that as best as possible. ”
Darnall said he is confident in his sixth grade students’ abilities to take guidelines seriously and follow all safety measures.
“Those first few days, we'll just be teaching them. Yeah, I'm sure there'll be growing pains as anything, you know, as a kid, like, ‘Oh, I forgot that rule.’ Just reinforcing, reinforcing and teaching it to them,” Darnall said. “They're usually pretty good, you know, if you just keep pushing and reinforcing those, especially when it's a big change.”
Darnall said he knows returning to school before September 28 as suggested by Beshear will have SMMS ‘walking a fine line,’ but said he wants to be back in the classroom with his students.
“For me, it's a mixed emotion. I want to be back in the building. As a teacher, you miss being with the kids. That's what you enjoy doing. We want it to be safe, but we want to be back there,” Darnall said. “It's just walking that fine line of making sure that we're doing it right. Just getting the kids back being where they can see their friends and see their teachers and have a somewhat normal day. As normal of a day they can have following CDC guidelines.”
Marshall County Schools have a current 2020-2021 academic calendar available on the district’s website, Marshall.kyschools.us. This calendar is subject to change as new COVID-19 guidelines are issued.