NORFOLK, Va. — This week, Norfolk teachers took a step toward normalcy. They returned to their classrooms for the first time in almost a year.
Teachers are getting ready to welcome some of their students for in-person learning on March 15. Governor Ralph Northam asked schools to offer some in-person learning by that date.
Lindenwood Elementary staff are eagerly preparing their classrooms.
It’s a new beginning for first-grade teacher Carissa Stenson, who started this career two months ago.
“I’m just excited to be in here, actually doing it,” Stenson said. “Seeing the kids and bonding with them.”
The Norfolk School Board voted to bring elementary students, students with disabilities, and English learners back in a hybrid model on the 15th. Teachers will instruct in-person and virtual students, at the same time.
“I teach off of this computer and then I’ll have another monitor where I’ll watch the students at home,” said first-grade teacher Alisa Clevenger.
Masks must be worn at all times; seats are spaced out.
“They are six feet apart, every student has their own desk,” Clevenger said. “With their own pencil, any type of book they are using is going to stay in their desk.”
Classrooms won’t exceed 10 students. They are split into two groups: Group A will spend two days learning in-person, while group B learns virtually for those two days, then they’ll swap. Wednesdays are asynchronous learning days for all students.
Principal Dennis Holland said cleaning routines are paramount.
“Our custodial staff sanitizes the building with special foggers every day,” Holland said. “The teachers follow up behind that with the sanitation wipes.”
He expects younger students will need reminders to stay in line with new rules.
“You ask some of our kindergartners to stay six feet apart, and they are looking at their feet because they only have two,” Holland joked.
But the teachers -- experienced or brand new -- are up to the task.
“I love what I do,” Clevenger said. “I have a passion for teaching and kids.”
They’ll be learning how to navigate the new normal right alongside their students.
“I always have to have that mindset, there is more to learn,” Stenson said. “It’s improving me as a teacher. I am getting better. If I am better, then my kids will be. It benefits them.”
Middle School students are set to return to the classroom on April 12. Two weeks later, high school students will follow.
School officials said parents still have the option of keeping their children in the virtual learning format. If families are interested to switch to the virtual option, they should reach out to their child’s school.