Kannapolis schools start classes with normal operations

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, August 31, 2022

KANNAPOLIS — Monday was the first day back for Kannapolis City Schools and this was the most-normal reentry the district has had since 2019.

Despite the nationwide teacher shortage, Forest Park Elementary started the year with a full staff, and principal Martha Motley said the first day was so smooth it surprised her.

“I had to say ‘is this real?'” Motley said.

She said teachers had been planning for that first day and it paid off when the school was buzzing with excitement on Monday.

The day started with students being guided to their classrooms. School staff and staff from the central office were on hand to take kids to their classrooms if they were lost. Parents were allowed to escort their kindergartners to their first day in school.

Teachers were at classroom doorways ready to greet kids and Motley said it was a nice celebration of having students back in the building. She said the first day was focused on getting to know students and starting to build good relationships with them.

The day ended smooth, too, and every kid at Forest Park was home by 4:45 p.m. that afternoon.

“Typically buses take longer in those first days,” Motley said.

On the staffing front, Motley credited a retired principal who was willing to come back on as a teacher. She said she recruited heavily as well, picking up a teachers from Appalachian State and Elon universities among other places.

Motley said a lot of her team have been through the COVID-19 pandemic forever, so they came in on Monday ready for anything.

“We are so used to reacting,” Motley said. “You have lots of good plans in place, but things change.”

Like most districts, pandemic-era precautions like social distancing and masks requirements are gone at this point.

Masks are still allowed for students who want to wear them, and Motley said a few students at Forest Park still opted for the precaution.

KCS Superintendent Kevin Garay visited classrooms in Forest Park that day as well.

Garay said the school is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people in schools who test positive or are symptomatic for COVID-19. He said the state has extended an option to enter special absences when students are out due to COVID-19 and the district is still updating its case counts on week to let people know what is happening in schools.

He said if a situation like a cluster of cases appeared in a classroom the district will work with Cabarrus Health Alliance on next steps, but otherwise things are back to normal and the state’s Strong Schools Toolkit that laid out how schools could operate for the past two school years has been retired.

“Now it’s just the CDC guidance,” Garay said.

Garay said it is hard to describe how encouraging it is to see more normalcy in schools. He said the district started to see that normalcy in the spring when the district could bring back more events like prom, end-of-year celebrations and a typical graduation ceremony.

“When we ended the year the events and the day-to-day in schools looked more normal, looked more like what we are used to,” Garay said.

The pandemic reached its height of new infections earlier this year before beginning a precipitous decline. Cases began to tick back up somewhat in July but have been slowly falling again throughout August.

Garay said when KCS finished the year in the spring the district was optimistic, but still had concerns. He said when the toolkit was retired in June it was a good indication the district would be more in line with general community guidance.

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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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