1st day of school: Students, teachers across county return to class

Tuesday, August 25, 2020
A returning student couldn’t resist giving paraprofessional Kaylee Parton a surprise hug on the way into class on the first day of school at Berryville Elementary.
David Bell / Carroll County News

By Haley Schichtl

CCNNews@cox-internet.com

Carroll County public schools opened their doors to students for the first time since mid-March on Monday after closing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students and teachers finished the 2019-20 school year online but on-site instruction resumed Monday, and local superintendents reported a smooth start to the new year.

Berryville superintendent Owen Powell said the students and teachers are excited to be back at school after the long break.

“So far, it’s been a really good first day,” he said. “I’ve been in each of the buildings at least twice today, and saw everybody wearing their masks, even the little guys.”

Students had the option to choose between virtual and blended instruction. Powell said a few students switched from their original choices.

“That does create some issues for scheduling, but ... even in the perfect scenario, there’s always scheduling issues, with students who think they wanted a class and decide they don’t,” Powell said. “Overall, it’s been really good. Our counselors and principals are working really hard to get schedules figured out.”

Powell said bus riders had their temperatures checked before getting aboard and car riders had them checked before they got out of the cars, which didn’t take too long.

“Traffic was probably backed up a little more than usual, but considering the circumstances things went really well,” Powell said.

Noah and Heather Generaux lead their children, Noah and Aveline, from the Berryville Elementary parking lot to their classrooms on the first day of school. Baby Alex, safe in mom’s arms, doesn’t seem to appreciate what all the hubbub is about.
David Bell / Carroll County News

He said no one had a temperature or symptoms, but a couple students did have to go home after finding out during the school day they had previously been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID.

Green Forest superintendent Matt Summers said everything seems to have gone smoothly on the first day back to school.

“They’re very excited; I’ve been on all four campuses today,” Summers said. “It’s been a much longer break than normal, and it’s a little different.”

He said it took a little bit longer to get all the kids into the buildings in the morning because of temperature checks, but everyone was inside by 8:10 a.m.

“I know of at least eight today... that had signed up for virtual and changed their minds and decided to come back to school,” Summers said. “We’re pleased to have them here because we know what they’re getting here.”

He said students at the high school and middle school have two weeks to change their schedule or switch between virtual and on-site instruction.

“We’re assigning each kid a Chromebook that they keep with them all day long,” Summers said. “If we are shut down and don’t have face-to-face instruction, that part’s taken care of.”

He said he visited the elementary school in the morning and only saw two kids without masks on. They were immediately given masks to wear.

Eureka Springs superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the students seem to be handling the new rules well.

“I’ve been in all the buildings looking around, and the kids are excited to be back,” Pruitt said. “Everywhere I went, the kids were well-behaved, and kept spaced out. ... So far, it’s been pretty uneventful.”

Pruitt said the only time when it was a little difficult to keep everyone distanced was during the temperature checks in the morning, but he thinks they will quickly get the hang of it. He said the temperature checks started at around 7:30 a.m. and everyone was inside by 8 a.m.

Eureka Springs is bringing its students in on a divided schedule this week, alternating groups on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. All the district’s students will attend on Wednesday.

Pruitt said the district is also giving the students around two weeks to decide if they want to switch from virtual to on-site or vice versa.

“We’re being really flexible, so if anybody wants to switch we’re going to be accommodating,” Pruitt said.

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