By Crystal Burns
Despite an unusual start to the new school year, Trenton Special School District principals say they’re pleased with the first five days of school.
Trenton Elementary, Trenton Rosenwald Middle, and Peabody High schools began the year Monday, Aug. 10 on a staggered schedule, welcoming a different grade level into the buildings each day of the week.
“Our students came in every day excited to be back to school,” said Courtnee Wilkes, TES principal. “Our staff were excited to welcome them. Even with restrictions and new procedures in place, there seemed to be no fear or anxiety, just happiness to be back together. We have new arrival and dismissal procedures in place this year in order to better social distance while entering/exiting the building. Having one grade attend per day gave us the opportunity to practice these procedures and work out any kinks. We ask that parents continue to be patient with us as the length of the car lines and time it takes to drop off/pick up a child will improve every day.”
“This week has exceeded my expectations,” said TRMS principal Paul Pillow. “Our teachers worked very hard to prepare to have students back in the building, and they have worked their precaution plans flawlessly. Our students have been amazing and very well prepared to follow our instructions to meet precautions. We would like to say thank you to their parents and guardians for having them prepared. We have met as a faculty to review our precautions, and we have tweaked a few things on our plan after putting it in action. We are very comfortable with the precautions we have in place.”
Shane Jacobs, assistant principal at Peabody High School, also praised students’ efforts.
“We’ve been extremely pleased with our students’ efforts to comply with our procedures we have implemented,” he said. “We have experienced zero negativity from our faculty, staff, and students. We could not be happier with the response we have received from our community and everyone else involved. We have to pull together, be patient with the new procedures, and do our part. That is exactly what everyone has done. It has been an awesome first week.”
Monday, Aug. 17 was the first day for all students choosing the in-person option to attend school. At this time, the district does require all students to wear face masks at all times, which has been a concern for some parents.
“I have heard from several concerned parents about our students wearing masks all day, even during recess,” Wilkes said. “It is difficult to maintain social distance at all times with young children, especially when they have the freedom to run and play outside. We feel very strongly that if our students wear a mask, they are better protected. We will maintain this procedure. We monitor the heat index and will not take an outside recess when it is too hot.”
The district is offering virtual instruction to students, asking families who wish to use the option to commit for nine weeks (one grading period) at a time. A total of 173 students, about 13% of the district’s student population, are currently enrolled in virtual learning.
“Our virtual learning option is going to take time for all teachers and students to reach a comfort level with the process,” Wilkes said. “We have never taught this way before. Some of our students have never used this type of technology before. Making this process work will take a lot of effort from everyone involved, but we can do it.”