Parents and most students are happy and excited that all schools in Ware Shoals School District 51 are scheduled to return to the Traditional Instructional Model on Monday, November 23rd. (That's 25 days from the date of this article, but who's counting?) In case you've forgotten what the "traditional" model is, it's "school" as we used to know it pre-COVID. (You know, when students came to school five days a week instead of every other day!) That kind of school ended abruptly March 13th, when the governor issued Executive Order 2020-09 stating, "I hereby direct the closure of all public schools in the state of South Carolina for students and non-essential employees beginning Monday, March 16, 2020."
Since March, we have all added a few new terms and phrases to our vocabulary, such as “virtual”, “hybrid” and “social distancing.” We also have added a menagerie of face masks to our wardrobe. I even saw a man the other day with a face mask made from the same fabric as his bow tie...stylish! Since March, we have missed out on a lot of valued traditions - Easter egg hunts and sunrise services, proms and 'normal' graduations, awards ceremonies and banquets, and now we are facing an October without the usual trick-or-treating. What will Thanksgiving and Christmas be like during this pandemic? We cannot know right now, but we are making history and living the stories that will be told generations from now. Then, most people may not even know the meaning of the word 'pandemic,' much less believe it could happen in their lifetimes.
Our district is preparing to bring all students back to classrooms that will look decidedly different, albeit for safety's sake. Students will have clear barriers to separate them from one another, which, when used in combination with face masks, will allow us to shorten the distance between them as needed. We will still practice essential pandemic hygiene - regular handwashing, mask wearing and, social distancing - along with our now well-established cleaning routines for schools and buses.
We appreciate those of you who have answered our call for help with transportation. We are only allowed to fill each bus to 67% of its capacity. Many of you are carpooling or driving your children to school, which allows us to get bus riders to school on time.
We also appreciate the donations of water for our students. Our water fountains are shut off, and the portable drinking stations have still not arrived, even though they were ordered months ago. The pandemic, as you well know, has caused shortages of all the things that are much in demand (e.g., toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and, sadly, portable water fountains).
Finally, we appreciate the help and support you've given your children since Friday the 13th of March. The added stress of having to be the parent and the teacher has taken a toll on many of us. There aren't enough words to express how happy we will be to get all of our students back, all learning together once more. Will there be bumps in the road? Certainly, but here's another new term we've added to our vocabulary - "RESILIENT" - which means "able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions." We are all in this pandemic together, and together we will eventually emerge from it with a new appreciation for each other, for our schools, and for life.