August 14, 2020–6:02 a.m.
Thursday morning Rome City Schools welcomed students to school, all of them wearing their masks and ready to learn.
Anna K. Davie and West Central Elementary schools have been eagerly awaiting this day since classes came to an abrupt halt in March of 2020. Evident by the cheerful atmosphere throughout the hallways and classrooms as parents and students arrived, faculty members were just as excited about returning to in-person instruction.
West Central Assistant Principal, Jennifer Uldrick, and AKD Assistant Principal, Lorraine Reeves, both greeted students as they stepped off the bus and the little Wolves were served breakfast in the classrooms.
Educators at both schools manned the thermal imagining camera. In Rome City Schools each individual student is scanned by the camera and their temperature is relayed to software that will alert school administrators if a temp is high. Because the cameras are fixed at each approved entrance, the arrival process was smooth and efficient.
Daphne Johnson, Principal at West Central, was excited to finally welcome her students back to school.
“This morning surpassed my expectations, by far!” said Johnson. “We had one of the smoothest openings that we have ever had, from buses to breakfast, to classroom beginnings and more! We are extremely excited about this school year and hope that our students and families are, too!”
Reeves echoed Johnson’s observations and bragged on the AKD faculty members.
“The most exciting thing for us is seeing the children. It has been five months since we have seen our students,” Reeves said. “I am so proud of how our team has worked together, because changing how we structure the day has been a challenge. They have been so flexible and patient, and our principal, Ms. (Felisha) Jackson, uses these words to describe how our faculty has been able to be successful. We have practiced this process over and over. Teamwork has really made our plan work. We borrowed that saying from Dr. (Eric) Holland at the high school and that is what we believe. With the right team and the right mindset, we can accomplish anything. Safety of our students is our focus and we are working to get them here to learn and back home safely.”
Whether by bus or by car, Rome High School students were undoubtedly anticipating what their return to in-person learning would look like after classes ended back in March of this year.
According to RHS faculty members, all the preparation helped to keep students informed about how a new day will look.
Dr. Eric Holland said that he and the other educators have spent much of their time over the summer planning for this day.
“We have been working to get all of our new signage up around our building, we have added plexiglass in areas where it is needed and we have dividers installed in areas where physical distancing will be needed.”
Dr. Holland said part of their goals were not only centered around their students, but he wanted to make in-person learning easier on his teachers, as well.
“We have been working around the clock and we are really excited about our safety-first efforts. Because of this work, we have been able to ease some of the stress on our teachers,” Dr. Holland explained.
Rome High’s Principal said that running through the process in real-time, repeatedly, gave educators a good idea about how to handle getting students in the building and keeping them safe while learning.
Every student entered the building through approved entrances and was scanned by the system’s thermal imaging cameras. Teachers and administrators were stationed in the hallways to help with freshmen’s questions and pointing out changes to the upperclassmen.
“We have told our students to walk as if they are driving,” Dr. Holland said when explaining how they are working to control the hallways during class change. We want everything to flow one way. Everything has been pretty smooth this morning. So far, so good.”
What means the most to all of Rome High’s team of educators is seeing their students again. Dr. Holland said that this day has been the driving force behind the many hours spent implementing their plans.
“I am most excited about seeing our kids,” he said. “Seeing them today has recharged my battery. Being able to see our students and look them in the eye, is so important. Because of the masks, we are making mandatory on our campus, we must look at their eyes to see them smile. I have seen the joy in their eyes, and they are excited about joining their classmates for another great year at Rome High School. I am proud of what we have worked together to accomplish.”