Principals, acting superintendent share thoughts about first week of school

As the first week of the most unusual school year in recent memory comes to a close, with students alternating between in-person and remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, several principals and Acting Superintendent Vicki Calvert spoke about how the week went.

Central Elementary School

Principal Melissa Smith said getting ready for the school year was “probably one of the most challenging undertakings educators and families faced. However, we have been pleasantly surprised that things are as well as they are. My staff has worked miracles, literally, despite the unforeseeable circumstances presented.”

The school received support from the community.

First Presbyterian Church of Albemarle provided lunch to the staff on Monday, Main Street United Methodist of Albemarle donated boxes of paper to every teacher and the Albemarle Police Department organized a safe, two-lane car rider process. Central Office staff were also on the campus to help with car rider lines and bus duty.

Smith said the teachers assigned to virtual classrooms are “rolling with it” and students and their families are embracing it. The students that opted for in-person instruction “seem excited about returning to school and feel comfortable learning.”

She said staff, students and their families have been supportive with practicing social distancing and wearing masks in a positive manner.

Even though the year has already presented several unique challenges, she said “one thing that hasn’t changed is that we are educating the whole child, whether they are (face to face) or remote, and every teacher is planning and preparing to meet all students where they are at.”

Aquadale Elementary secretary Rebecca Underwood greets second-grader Isabel Ellerbe with an “air hug” Monday morning. Photo by Aquilla Ellerbe.

South Stanly Middle School

Principal Kristen Sides said the new school year “is off to a productive, exciting and rewarding start.”

“The positivity within the school’s culture and climate, the eagerness to learn from the teachers and students, and everyone’s flexibility and understanding during a nontraditional start of the school year are the things that have allowed us to have a successful first week of school,” she said. “Stanly County Schools has worked diligently during the past couple of months to establish proper safety protocols, policies and procedures to ensure that the return of SCS students and employees is a seamless transition and that employees and students feel safe and protected during face-to-face instruction.”

Her students and staff were “excited to return to school” and she said they look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead for the school year.

“We are thankful for the availability of teachers and staff, their willingness to help in all capacities of the school day, and the community’s continued support and encouragement,” she said. “Although the start of the school year has not had a typical beginning, we embrace the changes and are excited about the opportunities that the 2020-2021 school year holds.”
West Stanly High School
Principal Anne McLendon said her biggest surprise during the first week was that “there were no big surprises” and she attributes that to the fact that there was “much forethought put into reopening our schools.”
“I have never seen teachers more ready to see their students,” she said. “It was truly overwhelming to see our students drive onto our campus for the first time in months.”
While making sure every staff and student had their temperatures taken and could answer questions appropriately before entering the buildings “was a task…we did it very efficiently,” McLendon said.
In regards to remote learning, she said the school is still working to emphasize the importance of being online each day with teachers from 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. While students will eventually learn the online routine, “this will take everyone’s intentional efforts to make this successful” though she has “no doubt we can make this work.”
She said with thorough daily cleaning of the classrooms along with smaller class sizes and everyone wearing masks, the school is safer and cleaner than ever before.
“I am most proud of our students who are eager to be at school learning or ready to learn online,” McLendon said, adding that “they are ready to learn, which indeed makes me proud of the communities we serve.”
Calvert Comments
Acting Superintendent Vicki Calvert began Monday morning visiting Locust Elementary and Stanfield Elementary. She watched as students “were walking into the school with their little masks on and juggling school supplies while trying to grab a breakfast to take to their room.”
Students returning to school for the first time since mid-March was exciting for Calvert though she said it also “has been a bit emotional for me.”
“Although I couldn’t see their smiles, the masks did not hide the excitement in their eyes,” she said. “Monday morning I rediscovered my ‘why.’ “
She said “although staff were facing the challenge of charting waters completely unknown to them, they were eager to do what is right for students.”
Calvert noted that as she visited other schools throughout the week, “I continued to be filled with gratitude and admiration for our staff and community as we have come together to support our students.”


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