The impacts to the Wayne Community School District from the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen before one even steps foot inside the front door. A sign placed on the front door greets you noting the school mandate requiring face masks be worn by all who enter the building.
Just a few feet inside the double doors stands a touchless body temperature scan detection kiosk. The screen on the machine shows your image while announcing if your body temperature is normal or high. Should you test above normal, you would be unable to continue any further beyond those double doors.
As you begin the walk throughout the hallways, signs are strategically placed reminding staff and students to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs, sneeze and cough into elbows and to stay home if having a fever. Hand sanitizer stations are also placed with reminders to sanitize frequently.
While many of these health and safety notices are nothing new that should be practiced, they now come with a sense of urgency to help keep faculty and students healthy to remain in face-to-face learning within classrooms. As we edge closer to the one-year mark when the pandemic began, teachers at Wayne CSD have found their stride working their hardest to keep students moving forward in their studies whether within the classroom walls in person or being online.
Heather (Niday) Fortune is in her 21st year of teaching at Wayne. Following the just over two-month early school closure at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, she knew it would be a task picking up where learning left off.
“I would compare this year to that of my first year teaching, feeling like a fish out of water at times,” said Fortune. “There have been times that were harder than others this school year, but we are figuring it out and we just keep moving forward.”
Wayne returned to classes August 24 offering face-to-face learning as well as the hybrid option for those students requesting online learning. Those returning to the classroom after having just over five months away from a learning environment were forced to adapt to new guidelines.
As eighth grade Pre-Algebra students arrived into Fortune’s classroom set to begin at 9:36 a.m., they are now rehearsed on what is expected of them upon their entrance. Positioned just inside the classroom door sits a table with hand sanitizer, paper towels and a spray bottle filled with cleaner. Students spray down their worktables and areas and thoroughly wipe them clean before their use.
As they entered, every student was weighted down with large book bags carrying what looked to be filled to capacity with all books and items needed for each class of the day. While no scales were available for exact weight, several students walked with a slight hunch and it was easy to tell they were extremely heavy. While Wayne now allows students to use their lockers, most students kept with early school year guidelines of carrying all books in their bags to avoid social gatherings at the locker space.
Once students grabbed their name identified plastic bag containing their marker and rag for their workspace, they quickly were seated at the small round tables to begin their class period. Each table accomodates three students evenly spaced apart. The tables would nearly appear normal if not for the wooden stands positioned atop the table holding thick Plexiglas pieces to keep up the protective barriers between students.
As students are seated in their spots, they have the ability to take facemask breaks with the plexiglass barriers in place. Once they are on the move within the classroom, facemasks are required to be placed in tact once again.
It appears to be a smooth process for the students now knowing what is expected of them and the complaints for wearing them, if there ever were any, are long gone now. Mrs. Fortune takes her place in front of the class with her facemask in place, but before she can go about teaching, she must first refer to the calculated placement of an iPad on a stand before her.
For this particular Pre-Algebra class, two students remain learning online. She checks in to be sure both are online and ready to begin with the new day’s lesson. As she begins to write out formulas on the dry-erase board located just behind her, the iPad remains in place for the online students to follow along with their fellow classmates.
The students seated within the classroom will raise their hands as questions arise or to answer Mrs. Fortune’s questions in a timely manner. It can be noticed at times there is a delay in responses when she checks in with those online to be sure they are following along with no questions as well.
“I don’t know what we would do without technology throughout all of this,” Fortune states. “There can be glitches, but overall technology has made it possible for even those students unable to be in the classroom to continue learning with us all. It really is amazing.”
While many could say mathematics including algebra, geometry and beyond are the hardest classes you will endure once reaching junior high, every single minute counts when ensuring students are learning and processing what is taught. Unfortunately, shortened class periods for this school year has added another obstacle for teachers.
Wayne students are released from their school day one-hour earlier this year to allow teachers that time to work with those online students that may be struggling as well as to prepare any further work instructions, answer emails from online student and whatever else may be needed of them in that time. While an hour can seem long in some instances, teachers use up every second often times knowing there is much more work to be done beyond the 60-minutes given.
The clear goal of all faculty including administration is to provide the safest learning environment for their students while ensuring all goals can be achieved. This school year is certainly one to be documented in history books for years to come and while it isn’t yet known what setbacks children may develop, Fortune believes there may be advantages as well as disadvantages that will come forth.
“We are seeing how resilient kids can be and through the challenges they are learning what they can overcome but ultimately I do think along with that there will also be some negative impacts just the same for some,” she said in closing. “I am however thankful for our medical professionals in our community and our administration that have done everything in their power to keep our doors open and give students the opportunity to remain face to fa