ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. (WECT) -WECT is visiting each district in our area and highlighting what each school system is doing to protect its students and staff from COVID-19 ahead of the first day of school.
Well before families walked the halls at Elizabethtown Primary School Thursday for the county’s open house, the decorations on the walls were telling their own story. Bright colored bulletin boards, teacher doors decorated with pirate ships and treasure chests reflected the hope teachers have for the 2021-2022 school year.
“‘Ahoy, I spy a great year ahead,’ that’s the open house theme and it’s just something to get them excited about coming to meet their teachers and see their teachers from last year, see a few friends,” explained kindergarten teacher Holly Hatchell. “With all the gaps in learning from COVID and being at home, with the packets and the computers, we’re trying to make sure that we get back to the basics this year and just focus on the foundational skills the students need to build.”
Like any voyage into uncharted waters though, district leaders know there are obstacles ahead.
“We’re coming into an academic year with a learning loss and social-emotional, so we know the challenges ahead of us,” said superintendent Dr. Jason Atkinson. “Just know that we’re gonna do everything we can to keep our children safe and our staff safe.”
The biggest challenge being controlling the spread of COVID-19. Masks aren’t required in Bladen County unless students and staff are on a school bus.
The district still has floor stickers and posters up, encouraging distancing, and they plan to space out transitions around the building. Most grade levels will eat lunch in their classrooms again rather than the cafeteria.
In addition to hand sanitizer at every entrance and routine wipe-downs, custodians are performing a deep cleaning with a vaporizer twice a week at each school after staff and students go home.
This school year, parents wont see temperature checks in the morning, as the latest guidance from experts doesn’t recommend the practice anymore because many people who tested positive for the virus never ran a fever.
However, the district is kicking off new programs, including a partnership with the health department offering vaccines at their open houses and rolling out a new in-school COVID-19 testing program this fall.
“We’ll obviously contact parents and get permission before we would do any kind of testing on any students like that. We don’t know all the parameters about the requirements for that particular test, but it will be a rapid test,” explained Dr. Atkinson.
The COVID-19 testing program is expected to kick off as soon as September, and the district also received state funds this year to add extra temporary nursing staff in its schools.
It’s an all hands on deck approach to sail into a healthy new school year.
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