August 28 – Principal Jim Gilbert walked into his office approximately 20 minutes before the students arrived for the first day of school Monday morning at Aurora Heights Elementary School. It wasn’t long before Gilbert retired from his corner of the administrative office to greet new and old students at the main entrance.
It’s an all-day affair, he says. Rather than spending his day behind a computer screen, Gilbert enjoys going to classrooms and getting to know children.
“The first few days, for me, are a time to connect,” he said. “I’m hardly in my office all day, and it’s just about going from class to class making sure I’m visible, making sure the kids put my name with a face. will hear me everyday in the morning announcements., and for some, they’ve never seen me before. “
Gilbert and the staff wore matching shirts for the first day of school; the gray T’s were adorned with the phrase Be Kind Cardinals. The primary school parent-teacher association also provided each student with a “school spirit day” shirt, which Gilbert said will be encouraged to be worn every Wednesday.
“It kind of brings that sense of community, so we’re looking forward to that,” he said. “We’ve always done this for staff, and all schools do. Typically no matter what day you wear your staff shirt. As last year was last year, we thought we could expand that. to the students and we think it will be a lot of fun. “
Compared to the first day of the previous school year, the start of the 2021-22 school year is remarkably different. Aurora Heights students and teachers weren’t required to wear masks, but many chose to do so anyway. Plastic shields are always installed by the reception of the administration office.
A paper sign posted at the main entrance to Aurora Heights had the word “required” cleared and replaced with “recommended,” signifying the school district’s decision to enforce state laws, but also acknowledging the leadership of public health officials who are still battling a pandemic.
Access to the vaccine probably provided some level of comfort to the teachers. Gilbert said it was a relief that people are coming back to school and feeling more comfortable.
“There is always COVID and there are always the variants that are circulating,” he said. “I think most people are vaccinated now and we think there is a lot more protection from a staff point of view. Children, however… there is no vaccination that has been approved for them yet. . But I hope it will happen soon. “
Returning to the classroom this year also means the end of distance learning.
“It’s hard to know, if you’re not a teacher, how hard distance learning is – and for parents too,” Gilbert said. “Because then you had to have someone at home to facilitate all of the technology. I don’t think human beings are made to stay home and not go to school when the time comes. time to learn. “
As a result, Gilbert expects students’ socio-emotional health to improve significantly this year. Children can work with each other to learn, socialize, and grow stronger again. Gilbert said it was “a whole different ball game” to have face-to-face lessons compared to distance learning.
“Our teachers are so happy to be in person,” said Gilbert. “There has been a lot of preparation on their part to get ready for the first day of school and obviously meet these kids where they are, because we know there will be some delay in learning – because everything not everyone has had a full year of school. “
Lois Holmes, a first-grade teacher at Aurora Heights, spent the last week preparing her class and getting to know her students and their families at a back-to-school event. By all accounts, she was ready to start a new school year. She hopes she will be better than the year before.
“It feels a little more normal,” Holmes said of the first day of class. “Last year we started where Mondays were going to be distant. Then we had everything going on with COVID and we weren’t sure if we were going to be online or in person. I’m glad that looks like more to a normal first day. “
Holmes is relieved that she and her students are not learning from a distance. By having face-to-face classes, it will be easier to form group or partnership activities and further facilitate individual teaching. From what she saw during the back-to-school nighttime festivities, the students are delighted to be back in class.
“We are all hoping that we can stay in school and that it will be a normal year,” Holmes said. “(I hope) that everything gets back to normal and we can sort of carry on as we always have. I just hope the kids learn all kinds of things by being here.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or [email protected]