When our students hopped off the bus on the first day of school, we were very excited to see them and welcome them once more into their classrooms. But along with the excitement was a small question in the corner of our minds that is probably familiar to everyone in the COVID era: Will this last?

This year, no one can say for certain what will happen next month, next week or even tomorrow. In times of pandemic, change and flexibility have become the new normal. So even though it might not last forever, while we have the opportunity, we’re going to take full advantage of having our students with us in school. We’ll get things off to a good start so that no matter what happens as the year moves on, we will have built a solid foundation for our students.

After four weeks in the classroom, we’ve already done a lot of work to get to know our students as individuals. Each student comes into our school with unique knowledge, abilities and strengths. These early weeks of school have helped us get to know our students, assess their current learning levels, understand their strengths and weaknesses and set up a path for each student’s success.

Being in school in person is also allowing our students the space and time to get to know their classmates. Providing an opportunity for students to build relationships helps each of them move further along in their learning. It also provides the basis for social emotional learning, where each child develops their skills in interacting with others, resolving conflicts and building friendships.

This past spring, when we surveyed parents about their thoughts concerning the start of the 20-21 school year, parents recognized that there was a difference between moving into distance learning at some point during the school year (like we did last spring) and starting off the year in distance learning. Parents were concerned that if we started the year in distance learning, students would never have the opportunity to truly get to know their teacher or build friendships with classmates.

Even though it’s possible that our current elementary full in-person learning will have to change at some point during the year, we are happy to have this opportunity to start the year with our students, develop a strong foundation for success and get their school year off to a great start.

Scott Urness is the Principal of Forest View Elementary School. He can be contacted at surness@flaschools.org.

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