Some elementary school students are back in the classroom full-time, for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Kindergarten, first and second grade students returned on Tuesday.
“Having them back is like bringing back the life back into the building,” said kindergarten teacher, Angela Storm.
It's often been said that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and that's been true for Angela Storm's kindergarten class. The first assignment she gave her students was to bring in a photo of their family, not wearing masks, to share with the class - as an icebreaker of sorts.
“Some of these kids don’t know each other because we had cohort A and cohort B at the beginning of the school year,” said Storm. “So, I thought it would be fun for them to share who they are and who their families are.”
A special sign in the hallway read, ‘WE CAN’T MASK HOW EXCITED WE ARE TO WELCOME YOU BACK,’ which greeted returning students to building.
“I can tell you when we saw kids walking in, I know that you can’t see people’s faces but you can certainly see their smiles through their eyes,” principal Lillian DeRung said.
Anoka-Hennepin Schools are following health and safety guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health, which changed a bit, since with a full classroom, they cannot maintain a six foot distance.
“Now we are given the guideline of three feet whenever possible,” said DeRung.
Most families of K through grade 2 students chose to have their child return to the classroom, while a few remain in distance learning, connected to the classroom by computer.
“Sometimes our higher risk students are the ones choosing to not come back and I think that’s because COVID-19 has likely hit their families a little bit harder," DeRung said.
Third through fifth grades classrooms are empty of students. But their teachers are teaching them online, for now, until they return to the classroom next month.
“We’re just so happy to have kids back in the building, because it’s really redefined our sense of purpose,” said DeRung. “And we remember why we do what we do, and why we love what we do.”
Currently, the school district plans to bring back students in grades three through five, full-time, on February 1. The following day, February 2, sixth grade students will return to the hybrid model, meaning two days in the classroom each week. Students in grades 7 through 12 will return to the classroom in the hybrid model starting on February 16.