Tioga Central School District’s classrooms and hallways have been empty since mid-March. On Friday, Sept. 11, the Tigers returned to their classroom for the start of the new school year; with some changes.
Precautions begin before students are on their way to the school. Every morning a parent or guardian must sign a screening ticket to allow their children on a school bus and into the school. These tickets ensure that the student has not exhibited any COVID-19 symptoms, has not been in close proximity with anyone exhibiting symptoms, has not traveled from a high-risk location, and has a reasonable temperature.
If a student is on their feet within the building, they must be masked. Once inside, roaming the halls is not permitted. Each student in the middle school and high school who are changing classrooms will be carrying a personal plastic barrier that clicks into the tables and desks. This allows students to remove their masks while in class.
Elementary and early middle school students will have barriers on their desks, some in a “T” shape to allow for group learning at tables. For the majority of the day, these students will stay in their classrooms. For recess, masks must be on, but socially distant “mask free zones” will be made available to give students a chance to remove their face covering.
“I teach in the middle school, and I have great confidence that our students will take the precautions seriously,” seventh grade science teacher Stephanie MacDonald said. She said parents have been made aware that non-compliance will not be tolerated within the school.
The biggest change from the norm is the hybrid style learning. Students will be on campus four days a week, with Wednesday being a full day of remote learning.
Remote learning gives students a chance to avoid crowds and potential risks. While it is not optimal, it is a necessary precaution.
“There is much more that goes on in the classroom setting than can be done online,” said MacDonald. “Students’ questions often spark discussions that cannot be planned for, and are often the most rewarding and impactful events in the classroom.”
MacDonald’s sentiment regarding remote learning days is mirrored in the statements put out by the elementary, middle and high school principals.
Faculty and staff are to be prepared to switch back to a fully remote learning model at a moment’s notice if there is an outbreak or increase in the infection rate of the virus, MacDonald said.
“To compare last spring to now,” MacDonald said, “obviously we are much more prepared, more ready, more trained for online learning. Although I would say we all want our students back in school.”