By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
After not seeing each other in six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers reunited for the opening day of the Grand Island school year last week Wednesday.
“We’re going to take care of you today and throughout this whole week to get us started in this new way of learning,” Connor Middle School Principal John Fitzpatrick told the middle-schoolers during the morning announcements. “I’m excited. I hope that you’re excited. This is a challenge, and we’re going to overcome this challenge by working together.”
Building principals and Superintendent of Schools Brian Graham felt the same way as the public schools embarked on a hybrid model of teaching half in person and half online.
“We haven’t seen kids in the building since March 12,” Graham said, referring to the last day of instruction before the state closed schools in the last school year. “So now, we get to have in-person teaching and learning occurring. And although it’s hybrid, we’re able to get our eyes on kids and support children. Yesterday I was talking about trauma informed care. Part of our responsibility as educators is also making sure that people are safe, healthy and well. There are some students who have experienced some type of trauma from March until September, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, maybe it’s some COVID trauma in the family, or any other type of trauma. By having the opportunity to have in-person teaching and learning, we get to work with children again socially, emotionally and academically.”
Sidway Elementary School Principal Denise Dunbar said Wednesday that once the kids arrive, anxiety reduces.
“We had the kindergarten meet-and-greet yesterday and I felt a little bit better because all summer long you’re doing all this planning and prepping and there were all these changes,” she said. “It was just like this moving target every single day of things you had to think about. But once the kids come, it makes it real and then you realize they’re all so excited to be here.”
First Day of School on Grand Island
The first day of in-person instruction on Grand Island since March began last week Wednesday with the opening day of schools.
The opening of public schools followed a hybrid model with about half the student population attending Wednesday and the other half starting Thursday. New start and end times to the school day were in place for all schools.
St. Stephen School Principal Scott Gruenauer places signs on the floor of the cafetorium reminding students to social distance.
The tables in the cafeteria at Sidway Elementary School were undated with protective equipment by head custodian Kevin Astridge, Principal Denise Dunbar said.
The floors in the cafeteria will remind Sidway students to social distance. At right, Sidway Elementary art teacher Matthew Doherty elbow bumps an incoming student off the buses. (Photo by Larry Austin)