Who knew that Thursday, March 12 would be the last day a student walked in and out of their school building for weeks at a time? We surely didn’t at that time, but what we knew was that we had to keep educating our students.
As the staff returned to work on Monday, March 16 (without students), we waited in anticipation and planned accordingly to be out for two weeks. Although there were many thoughts, questions, and concerns, we made adjustments and did what we had to do to make sure our students had what they needed. We didn’t know what was ahead of us, but one thing was certain; change was rapidly approaching and that would affect every aspect of the lives of our students and their families.
It’s Called Survival!
Darrin Turner, Lead Teacher and Athletic Director at Knox Center for Accelerated Studies (Knox Middle School), indicated that his initial thoughts were that since the country was given advance notice of the impending pandemic precautions, it could have been made to eliminate its transmission.
Mr. Turner is mostly impressed with how the Rowan Salisbury School System, though not perfect, did an amazing job at quickly responding to the needs of the students and provided excellent communication by various medias to ensure all stakeholders were abreast to the updates from national to city municipalities. “Our LEA strategized and employed a working plan to not only supply students with resources for virtual learning but also meals. The staff at Knox worked together to ensure those students had what they needed during this crisis. Our Principals (Courtwright and McNeil) kept us informed and we were well ahead of the curve on executing a plan of action. Although the quarantine has limited the number of essential staff on site, teachers still are communicating via ZOOM and text to fill any gaps where volunteers are needed,” stated Mr. Turner.
Mr. Turner has been committed to serving students and assisting staff by volunteering to drive the bus for food distribution. This seems to be the most helpful method of interaction because it gives Mr. Turner the opportunity to see students and parents face to face (six feet distance of course), which calms some anxieties about the pandemic. The students, whether elementary, middle or high, being able to see a familiar face has helped in his opinion. Several staff who have volunteered to distribute meals have commented that face to face interaction has decreased their stress level as well.
It’s Not Just in the Students’ Hands
Mindy Muire is the Intervention Specialist (School Social Worker) at West Rowan Middle School. According to her, the pandemic has drastically impacted our students and school community. Students are learning how to be full-time online students and teachers are learning how to be full-time online instructors. This is a huge learning curve, but thankfully our district has had e-learning days, which at least provided an inkling of what this new way of learning might look like. Mrs. Muire is mostly impressed that the positivity that our staff had on Monday, March 16, has continued as we all adjust to this “new normal.” She goes on to say that the willingness of our staff to take risks, to use their creativity to reach students, to work TOGETHER for the good of their students, as well as to support each other, is amazing. As a district, providing lunch daily to our students has been remarkable. As someone who rides on a bus to deliver meals, the students are truly happy to see us and we are able to provide a basic need (food) to students as well as provide a quick check-in to make sure they are doing okay!
Continue to Stay Connected!
Mrs. Muire expressed that staying connected with students is critical so it is important to continue reaching out to them in as many ways possible. Thankfully, teachers are gaining more and more resources from the district each day to connect with students.
Mrs. Bria Johnson, second grade teacher at North Rowan Elementary School, feels that the school system did a great job with releasing information and keeping the schools and families of students updated in a timely manner. “I feel that my school was very proactive in making sure that we got it done for our students. Our principal Mrs. Katherine Bryant-Thrower is a phenomenal leader and she lead us through all of the changes and revisions as they came our way.”
Mrs. Johnson disclosed that, “NRES is 100% about our students and we made sure that our students would be prepared, fed, and supported through this pandemic. Teachers came in over the weekend and jumped in wherever help was needed. The entire Rowan-Salisbury Schools from the Wallace Building, to every school, every cafeteria, every bus, every principal, every staff member, and assisting community leaders did what we always do, and that’s show up and show out for our students.”
Mrs. Johnson had to make some major adjustments because although each child is assigned an electronic device, second grade students only have them during school hours. Mrs. Johnson stated that her students have adjusted well and parents have been so helpful with them having them having at home. Mrs. Johnson was excited about the parents stepping up and assuring that her students were doing their work.
Mrs. Johnson encourages students to take advantage of this time by getting creative and having fun. She goes on to explain to make the most out of the things you cannot change. Mrs. Johnson also encourages the parents to use this time to make new memories with their little ones. “Refrain from thinking of this as a “vacation.”” Your education is so important, so continue to read, start reading challenges with your family, make learning fun, but also remember your teachers love you and are here to support you.”
Change is inevitable and is sure to happen. Although we have experienced the unimaginable over the past couple of weeks and cannot predict what will happen in the future, Rowan Salisbury School System is on the move and making sure our students continue getting a quality education.
For parents and caregivers around Rowan County, the Thursday morning following the close of the 2021-22 school year went one of two ways. The lucky clutched mugs of hot coffee, gazing dreamily on the sight of dozing children taking full advantage of one of summer break’s many perks: sleeping in.