Teachers express concerns about unusual school year

Back to School

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Some teachers say they have been thinking about the first day of this school year all summer long.

A few teachers in Massachusetts tell 12 News their biggest concern is teaching remotely this year. They said they had no other option in the spring, but now they are ready to safely welcome kids back into the classroom.

During the summer, teachers were studying all of the new rules put in place to be fully prepared for the return of students in their classes for the first time since March.

“Normally you’re wondering, what activities are we going to do? How are we going to carry out the day with socializing?” fourth-grade teacher Emily Estrela said. “Now it’s — how are kids going to get up and go to the bathroom? And what time are we going to do a mask break?”

Since Aug. 31, teachers in Swansea have been learning the procedures the state has established and figured out how to have them fit their school needs.

“Until the 31st, it was chaos and we had no idea what we were walking into, but really these past two weeks have helped us along with the training and procedures in place,” fourth-grade teacher Samantha Lamourex said.

Teachers say they have thought of a lot of ways to be safe — buying hand sanitizers that attach with Velcro to each desk, and even containers to keep books in for 48 hours before safely returning them to the shelf.

In Swansea, teachers have just two days of the week in the classroom with each cohort, or small group of students. With so much separation, they say they are still trying to find a way to make the classroom feel welcoming.

“A cohort A next to a cohort B to free up room in the classroom and make it feel a little bit more like an elementary school,” Estrela sad. “That’s OK because cohort A will never be in school with cohort B.”

“With them being on computers three days out of the week, we’re going to limit their technology exposure while in school and give them more of those opportunities to interact with their peers,” Lamourex added.

On Wednesday’s the rooms get deep cleaned — students are at home but teachers can home into work.

That will also be the situation every day at Westport High School until at least October. The classrooms will be empty, but teachers will be at their desks connecting with their students remotely.

“It’s going to be awkward for the first few days, but then it will be something hopefully that we kind of say, ‘alright this is just the way it is and we roll through it and we do it,'” Mike Ponte, teacher at Westport Junior and Senior High School, said. “We have a responsibility to these kids and these parents to do the best we can and educate these kids.”

No matter the grade level or district, teachers who sat down with 12 News say they feel safe in the classroom.

“I haven’t talked to a teacher, whether it be in Westport or any other place, that would say they don’t want to see their students in front of them,” Ponte said. “Every teacher wants that.”

As public schools are just beginning to acclimate to the new learning environment, Catholic schools in the Fall River Diocese have already been back in session for weeks.

Back to School coverage all this week on 12 News Now This Morning

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