Eight-year-old Ainsley Johnson and her mother, Anne Johnson, meet with third-grade teacher Erin Lombardo for an orientation Sept. 3 at Eisenhower Elementary School. Students and their parents met teachers last week to learn COVID-19 precautionary protocols that have been implemented and to receive an overview about what they will be learning. School started Sept. 8. Lombardo explained how specials like art and science will take place in the classroom via videoteleconference to reduce traffic in the school, among other changes to a typical school day. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Unified School District 207 officially began the schoolyear Sept. 8 with both in-person and remote learning options.

So that parents and students could gain perspective on what the schoolyear would look like before the year officially started, each of the four schools — Bradley Elementary School, Eisenhower Elementary School, MacArthur Elementary School and Patton Junior High School — hosted a “meet the teacher” event Sept. 1-3.

Ten-year-old Luke Tolbert listens to his fifth-grade teacher Joni McCoy explain how students will be able to move around within their six-foot “bubble” during orientation Sept. 3 at Eisenhower Elementary School. Luke’s family, including his mom Sara Tolbert, first-grade sister Anna Claire and third-grade brother John, were among the Unified School District 207 students and parents who met with teachers before the first day of school to become more comfortable with COVID-19 precautionary procedures. School started Sept. 8. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“I think a lot of the kids are nervous to come back to school after being home for so long, and so I think (the event) just helped ease their mind that everything’s going to be OK and, even though things are different, we’re going to try and make it as normal as possible,” said Ally Jackson, Bradley fourth-grade teacher. “I’ve always thought that the most important thing is building relationships, and I think since the social distancing comes with small class sizes, I think we can build better relationships than ever.”

Mindy Masters, Eisenhower pre-kindergarten teacher, said the event is imperative for newcomers.

“The first day of school is always a little bit scary, and so to come in without seeing the building at all or seeing your teacher would cause a lot of anxiety, and, hopefully, we were able to alleviate at least part of that,” Masters said.

Eight-year-old Ainsley Johnson has her temperature taken as she enters Eisenhower Elementary School to meet her third-grade teacher Sept. 3. Students and their parents met with teachers at the four post schools last week for an orientation about what they will be learning and what the school day will be like with COVID-19 precautions in place. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Tammy Irminger, MacArthur fourth-grade teacher, said being back in school is where teachers and students belong.

“This is where we do our best work,” Irminger said. “We’re always going to keep the safety and health precautions in the forefront, but I think that understanding that kids need that interaction with their peers is important.

“They learn well with their peers. Creating environments that are six feet apart but still providing opportunities for them to interact with each other, hear each other’s ideas, bounce ideas off each other, learn from each other is important,” she said. “We’re going to have to get creative, obviously, but there’s still ways to get it done.”

The event allowed parents and students to meet teachers, see the classroom setup and ask questions. Several parents agreed that being able to come in before school starts put their minds at ease.

“It’s important because a lot of the parents don’t know what it’s going to look like when they come in. I was talking to a neighbor, and he said it was so great to go in and see how the classrooms were set up and how the teachers were going to handle the everyday,” said Stephanie Schmidt, mother of William, Bradley sixth-grader; Dexter, Bradley fourth-grader; and Evee, Bradley second-grader. “There were only between nine and 12 kids in most of his kids’ classrooms, and he said that was great because now the kids are probably going to get more one-on-one, and it’s going to be a better experience for them in general.”

Lynn Godfrin, mother of Alyssa, Eisenhower third-grader, and Luke, Eisenhower first-grader, said she was happy her children were back in a brick-and-mortar building.

Eight-year-old Ainsley Johnson points out a turtle to her mother, Anne Johnson, as they pass the pond on their way to Ainsley’s third-grade classroom Sept. 3 at Eisenhower Elementary School. Unified School District 207 students and their parents met teachers for a school day orientation to be aware of and be more comfortable with the COVID-19 precautions in place. School started Sept. 8. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“My kids, they need the routine, and they need the social emotional stability of the school and friends,” Godfrin said. “I have no concerns about COVID-19. They’re doing a really good job here.”

Chantel McLemore, mother of Jayden Ricks, MacArthur fourth-grader, said it’ll help her more effectively support Jayden through the schoolyear.

“Now I know what he’s going through. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, so I can mentor him and talk him through how to be safe, what to do, what not to do, whatever he needs because I’ve actually visualized and seen it in person,” McLemore said. “I think (the event) also opened up a lot of eyes for the community to how much the teachers actually do for the kids. I think this has been a really good change for the positive mindset to really appreciate those things that they do.”


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