Students returned to Stillwater Area Schools for the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 8. It is the first time students have entered SAPS buildings since March when schools shut down for in-person learning due to of the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, this year appears a bit different. Kids are donning masks along with teachers, and to avoid crowded classrooms, students are alternating days where one group attends class in-person and the other group attends online.
While the district is not performing temperature checks or health screenings as kids enter buildings, students and staff are required to self-screen before coming to school, said Carissa Keister, SAPS Community Engagement Manager.
“Our plan is to avoid students congregating together,” Keister said. “Schools have plans in place to ensure students are spaced as they enter the building and throughout their day.”
The hybrid-learning model — which the school board adopted on Aug. 6 — allows classrooms to operate at 50% capacity, according to the district’s website. School buses are also running at 50% capacity, only members of the same household are allowed to sit together and seats will be assigned. Students and bus drivers are required to wear masks.
Learning models may vary at different times in the year as COVID-19 rates fluctuate, the district website states.
Families that are not comfortable sending students to brick-and-mortar locations, could opt for 100% online learning, and about 25% of families have gone that route.
In person on Tuesday morning, eighth graders from Oak-Land Middle School welcomed sixth graders outside the building as part of the Where Everybody Belongs program. WEB is a middle school orientation and transition program that welcomes sixth graders SAPS Marketing Director Chris Freichels said.
In WEB, eighth graders are trained to guide incoming students
entering middle school. WEB
Leaders will meet again with their student groups throughout the year to touch base, discuss problems, and plan social activities.
During the morning greeting, all students wore masks while clapping, and stood six feet apart from each other.
Despite the challenges cause by operating during the pandemic, interim superintendent Malinda Lansfeldt said she’s thrilled to start the school year.
“It has been great to see students and staff back in our buildings,” Lansfeldt said. “I’ve seen a lot of ‘smiling eyes’ behind those face coverings this week. There is a positive energy in the schools again, as well as a sense of calm as students and staff reunite.
I’m very proud of our Pony staff for the time and effort they’ve put in to make sure that our students and families have a positive start to this unusual school year.”