Middle, high school students head back to classes full time

Published 7:48 pm Thursday, April 8, 2021

SALISBURY – For the first time in more than a year, all in-person Rowan-Salisbury Schools students walked into classrooms on Thursday morning.

With the exception of students who signed up for all-virtual learning, students have attended classes two days per week this school year. They finished last year at home when the state’s public schools closed last March.

At West Rowan Middle School on Thursday, car riders were greeted by a sign at the front of the school welcoming them back and an excited Principal Stacey White waving them in. They passed a table with school resource officer Danny Lindley and intervention specialist Mindy Muire offering hand sanitizer as they walked inside.

White said the split between car and bus riders has been the same during a normal year — about half and half.

The focus for the day was meeting social and emotional needs for students. Teachers had lessons, but there were plans for games and getting to know each other was well. White said many of the sixth grade students hadn’t met each other in person until Thursday. Kids walked into classes that doubled in size with new classmates.

“Making sure we meet those social and emotional learning needs is important,” White said.

The school reorganized its classrooms to fit all the students inside and maintain as much distance as possible. The school formed a “welcome back team” to order the sign and create the activities for the day.

Each class also is creating a quilt piece which will become part of a school quilt.

Seventh grade science teacher Keyotta Garris said the day was fun and everyone seemed excited. Her students interviewed each other and the class talked about what they have been doing for the past year. Garris said she is excited for the remainder of the school year.

“The theme today was togetherness,” Garris said. “The students and staff are all better together.”

Maggie Huffman, a student teacher from Catawba College focusing on physical education, played icebreakers with her students.

One game, “Over the Mountain,” showed kids whether they’ve been doing the same things recently. As part of the game, students ran across the room if they agreed with something. Huffman asked them if they were excited to see each other on Thursday. They all ran.

Eighth grader Kate Gregory said she was excited to see her friends, but she will still miss sleeping in. She was part of the A group that attended in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays. So, she has not been to school on a Thursday for a year.

“It was a little crazy waking up this morning,” Gregory said, adding she was ready to be back in class four days and struggled with virtual days.

Gregory said she feels safe at the school and she thinks things will be fine.

Huffman said teachers spent part of the day going over rules and procedures to reinforce COVID-19 safety protocols. There are still mask reminders, but she said they are doing well.

“The kids are taking it like champs,” Huffman said. “All of the staff was really proud of them.”

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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