Parents, teachers excited to have students back in school amid a trying year
Monday and Tuesday marked the return to in-person learning for students throughout Moffat County School District after more than 160 days away.
That return was marked by a lot of excitement, some last-minute changes for one family, and very little apprehension for many involved. In fact, most welcomed the return to school, which brings a sense of normalcy in an abnormal year.
At Moffat County High School, cohorts A and B returned to school Monday and Tuesday. While it was certainly a strange new setup for students and staff, most involved were thrilled to be back in the classrooms for in-person learning.
“It was so good to see the kids, and they seem excited to be back and have teachers close by, rather than remotely,” said Cassia McDiffett, a math teacher at MCHS.
With the high school split up into cohorts, there’s a lot less students in the school during the day, McDiffett said, which has been an adjustment. However, the lower number of students in the school at one time – especially in the classroom – has helped McDiffett be more hands-on when it comes to teaching.
“I’ve noticed that not having as many as 28 kids in a classroom actually helps me be more involved with the learning aspect for each student,” McDiffett said. “As a teacher, I feel that I’m more involved in the learning process for each student right now, knowing where they’re at with learning and helping them along much better than when classrooms were full.”
While it’s going to be a much different year than anything she’s been used to from a teaching perspective due to the rules and regulations, it’s a situation that McDiffett will take.
“I’ll take this over remote learning any day,” McDiffett said.
For the Fedinec family, the plan was to have both children – Marlee, a high school student, and Karson, a middle school student – stay home and complete coursework online.
“All summer long I planned on doing online if masks were required,” said Krystal Fedinec. “That was the deciding factor. We’re not 100% in support of the masks, so we were going to just do online, so we never really looked into any other options.”
That all changed Monday morning when Karson decided he’d prefer to go to school and wear the mask, allowing him to see friends and teachers and be back in the school environment.
“When he said he wanted to go to school, I called (Craig Middle School Assistant Principal) Sara Linsacum to see if we could get Karson enrolled in school,” Fedinec said. “Sara worked so hard to get him into school and enrolled in the proper classes, so we went to school today (Tuesday) and we’ll see how it goes.”
With one child in school and one staying home to complete her coursework online, it presents a challenge to Fedinec. She was quick to say there was no right answer for the entire situation, though, and that it’s a time to support each other in these difficult times.
“I think this whole situation is very difficult; each family is different and each kid is different. Parenting each kid is different,” Fedinec said. “There’s not one real, right answer. These are complicated times right now and everyone is doing the best that they can, so we all need to be supportive, regardless of what choice a family makes.
“I’m super proud of my kiddos and standing up for what they believe is best for them at this time,” Fedinec added. “Karson is super social and definitely does better with teacher support/encouragement, so he decided even with us not loving the mask mandate that being in school was what was important. Marlee is very self motivated and dedicated to her education and seems to do okay with online learning with the tools she has learned from prior in person learning.”
Tuesday marked Karson’s first day back to school, which was a morning filled with nerves for Krystal.
“There were nerves this morning taking him, not because we’re worried about the virus, but because it was just so strange pulling up and seeing everybody in masks,” Fedinec said. “It’s very different. So far it’s working, and I think the school district, teachers, administration have all done a great job trying to make the best of a difficult situation.”
At the elementary level, not much has changed for the students themselves, aside from seeing teachers and other staff members in masks. For the most part, it’s business as usual.
“I think it has gone very well so far,” said Sunset Elementary Principal Jill Hafey. “The majority of the change was experienced by the teachers and adults within the building, which is something we are all used to. For kids, it’s business as normal.”
That return to some semblance of normalcy – returning to school, seeing your friends and teachers – has ignited a real sense of excitement within Sunset Elementary.
“The excitement level is through the roof,” Hafey said. “We have more than 260 kids in the building, so they’re all excited to be back in school. You could walk in and you would not know kids were feeling anything different.”
For Rachel Manske, the return to school for her two daughters – Kylie is in 5th grade and Regan is in Pre-K – was something the pair needed after a long time away from a structured learning environment.
“I was really excited to get them back into school because they need that face-to-face interaction and that in-school atmosphere,” Manske said.
Manske said she wasn’t worried about masks or the virus, per say. She was more worried about the drop-off structure for students at the elementary and middle school level, which could create some serious traffic jams and other issues.
That wasn’t the case on the first few days, she said.
“Honestly, it was great,” Manske said. “I was telling my husband this morning that they way they’re doing things outside in terms of dropping off and picking up students wasn’t as chaotic as I thought it would be. I liked the fact that I could just pull up and drop the girls off because that meant I didn’t have to get my youngest daughter out of her car seat to take the other two into school.
“The staff is doing such a great job so far.”
So far, Moffat County School District is off to a promising start in the midst of a return to in-person learning. Excitement levels are high and a sense of normalcy has returned for the time being.
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For nearly 40 years, Jonathan Herring has pursued his passion of education as a teacher, administrator, and principal in bigger cities such as Kansas City and Las Vegas.