HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - On Monday, Henrico County elementary schools started welcoming students back into the classroom as a first step to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While a vast majority of students will continue online learning for the first nine weeks, there is a plan for specific students to re-enter the school setting over the course of the next three weeks.
This week Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) kicked off the opportunity for some elementary school students to come check out their classrooms and meet their teachers in preparation for in-person learning; similar to a “back to school” night, but one-on-one.
“I think this a great opportunity to form that connection so I’m not just a talking head in the morning, that I’m a real person,” said Donahoe Elementary School pre-school teacher Meredith Williams. “I just think it’s been a really positive experience.”
“They have been so excited,” said Springfield Park Elementary School Principal Tracy Spain. “They’ve been skipping down the hallway.”
Currently, only pre-schoolers and kindergartners get this opportunity. HCPS elementary schools are working with families directly to schedule individual appointments.
“The hope is to gradually increase with first grade, second grade and third grade and then we’ll see where it goes after the nine weeks,” Spain said.
However, starting Sept. 21, some students who receive special education services (as determined by IEP teams) will also be allowed in the building.
“I’m very much worried about the youngest children and how important the relationship between the teacher, the student and the parent is bridging that home to school situation,” Williams added.
While the opportunity may be a bit overwhelming for students, especially those who have never been to the school before, one parent said it will help in the long run.
“It’s exciting to see him come in and take over and feel comfortable in this environment is a big relief as a parent,” said parent Cara Patterson.
Meanwhile, there are health and safety measures in place. Some classrooms have Plexiglas separating the student/teacher interaction, while others are socially distanced.
Sanitizer and disinfectant materials are also on hand. Those measures will remain in place when some students return to in-person learning around Oct. 5.
“We will be bringing in small groups of students once a week, in pre-k through three,” Spain said.
A spokesman for HCPS said there are other students who will do limited in-person learning.
Besides some younger children and those students with special needs, students who are learning English and those participating in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs will have access to limited time in the schools.
The school system receives weekly health updates from the County as part of the planning process for in-person learning countywide.
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