Maxwell and Princeton elementary students returned to their classrooms on Monday, approximately six months to the day the State of California shut down because of a novel coronavirus to which humans are not immune.
Our Lady of Lourdes students in Kindergarten through sixth grade returned for in-person instruction on Sept. 8.
Junior high and high school students, along with all students in the two largest school districts, Williams, and Colusa, will continue their education with a distance learning model, which requires students to log into virtual classrooms from their homes. Arbuckle Elementary has applied for a waiver to open K-6.
Students who returned to school in Maxwell chatted excitedly about their first day on campus in six months, as they lined up six feet apart before entering their classroom.
Most cited boredom and the lack of daily interaction with other kids as the primary reason they did not want to remain at home.
“I’m so glad to go back to school,” said Owen Charter, a third grade student at Maxwell. “I was so bored at home, I got my family in a food fight.”
Maxwell elementary students were situated in classrooms around 8 AM for about a five-hour day.
Maxwell officials said students returning to the classroom was only possible because their instructors were willing to return themselves.
“We are very grateful to our teachers,” said Trustee Cristy Edwards.
Superintendent Summer Shadley said about 80 percent of the K-6 students have returned to in-person learning. The remainder are students whose parents opted to have their children continue to learn remotely.
They will connect with their teachers in the afternoon.
Some teachers may opt to record the day’s in-person instruction to share with their students, but it is not required, Shadley said.
Maxwell Elementary School Principal, Stacy deWit, said having to juggle both in-person and distance students is still a work in progress, but that teacher-student interaction is critical for both groups.
Students and teachers at Our Lady of Lourdes were also thrilled to be able to return to school, after the Department of Public Health granted them a waiver.
“It’s exciting to have our students back,” said Administrator Barbara Genera.
Genera said the private school has 54 students in K-6, with room for additional enrollment in grades K-5. Our Lady of Lourdes’ preschool has been open since Aug. 11.
Dominic Cordona, a fifth grader at Our Lady of Lourdes, said he was happy to be back in school and looked forward to the school staying open the rest of the year.
“I missed school a lot,” he said.
In order for schools to stay open, they must meet state protocols for COVID-19, officials said.
At Our Lady of Lourdes, teachers quickly scanned temperatures as students entered their classroom, and they reminded students that they must stay home if they feel sick.
The state allows up to 14 students in a classroom and face coverings (masks or shields) are required by all.
“This is not an ideal solution but it is widely accepted as the best way to minimize the spread of COVID19,” said Princeton Superintendent Korey Williams, in a school bulletin.
Williams said students in first through sixth grades will be given one warning about a mask, and would not be allowed to attend school for five days if they refuse to cooperate.
“Similarly, failure to wear a mask will cause a student to lose bus privileges,” he said. “This sounds harsh but we want to be able to offer in-person classes and this is one of the ways we protect students and staff.”
Educators said they do not know when or if the rest of Colusa County’s students will return to their classrooms this year, but many believe the consequences will be devastating if they don’t.
Schools play a critical role in supporting the whole child, not just their academic achievement, Colusa County Superintendent of Schools, Mike West, told the Board of Supervisors earlier this month. ■