A new school year is underway throughout northwest Ohio, with administrators, teachers, aides, custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria staff dealing with life a whole lot differently than ever before.

Back in March, schools closed down due to the coronavirus and teachers adjusted quickly and creatively to educating their students virtually. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.

School administrators and boards of education did a lot of soul searching to come up with not only Plan A, but Plan B and Plan C for the new school year.

With students back in the classroom, parents were given the opportunity to have their children educated remotely. Plan B, should the pandemic get worse, calls for a hybrid mix of education options in most districts, while Plan C will look a whole lot like March.

“My students have been amazing at keeping their masks on,” said Lindsay Long, eighth-grade math teacher at Defiance Middle School. “Sometimes they need a gentle reminder about keeping the mask above their noses or not to pull them down when they talk, but overall, I’ve had very few issues. We also have mask breaks built in at different times throughout the day.

“The staff have been great as well,” noted Long. “We wear them anytime we’re around others or while walking down the halls. Teaching with a mask on is challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible. Luckily we have microphones in our classrooms, so if I need to project my voice better, I have that option.”

“I think (the students) are genuinely happy to be back at school, even if it means it looks a little different and new guidelines are in place,” stated Long. “I truly believe they missed the human connections of being in school.”

Fourth-grade teacher Lisa Weaver at Defiance Elementary School noted that her student’s anxiety levels seemed to be a little higher than in previous years. “To help students overcome their anxiety, I am focusing on making the students feel comfortable and happy to be back in school, building relationships, and teaching safety procedures,” said Weaver.

The district has implemented several social distancing measures. In the classrooms, desks are spaced at least three feet apart. “Students are also spaced apart while eating lunch in the cafeteria. There are several social distancing circles indicating to students where to stand while washing hands in the restroom or waiting in line in the cafeteria,” she said.

“The majority of my students have done an amazing job wearing their masks correctly. Many students mentioned their parents worked with them on how to correctly wear a mask and they even practiced wearing it at home,” added Weaver.

Ashley Ensign, a fifth-grade teacher at Defiance, noted that teachers and staff worked hard to prepare for a safe return to school.

She said “Students and staff have been flexible in learning new safety procedures, such as: eating breakfast in the classrooms, checking temperatures at the start of the day, practicing social distancing throughout the day, wearing masks, and washing and sanitizing several times a day. At Defiance Elementary, we are determined to find the good in a stressful situation. Students have not complained about the expectation to wear masks; instead, many treat this as a new ‘accessory’ added to their school wardrobe. Students and staff seem willing to take these safety precautions because of their desire to remain at school.”

So much for those of us who could brag about missing school due to a measly blizzard back in 1978. The graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 will have a lot more hair-raising stories than we did — (sanitized) hands down.

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