SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – After 18 months of hybrid learning, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) students returned to in-person learning Wednesday morning.
With teachers, police officers and school staff lining the walkways, students walked into their classrooms with welcoming cheers.
Dr. Ann Levett, the superintendent for SCCPSS, said there aren’t words to describe the excitement for getting kids back into the classroom.
“All over this county students are returning to face-to-face instruction, and it is a proud day for us. We’ve been working on this, and despite all of the challenges — all of the changing parts and guidance — our staff, our students, and as you can see, our parents, are ready for school to begin,” Dr. Levett said.
SCCPSS is one of four districts in the Coastal Empire requiring students to wear face masks in schools, a mandate staff said was a small price to pay to have kids in their classrooms.
“There’s nothing like the in-person, face-to-face learning,” said Brian Lane, a teacher at Pulaski Elementary School. “You can really connect with the students. They feed off of each other; you can feed off of them. Behind a screen really lacks that piece, so you do the best you can. But there’s nothing like that in-person experience.”
“Number one, we’ll know who they are, where they are and what they’re learning,” Levett added. “They won’t have some of the distractions that they may have had before, so we’ll be able to help them socialize, learn their peers, build some relationships and also understand how to function in more of a structured environment.”
To help keep transmissions down, SCCPSS has decided to cut off visitor or volunteer access for the first 20 days of school. Parents will not be able to walk their kids into school.
The district hopes this will cut down foot traffic into school buildings and reduce chances for spreading COVID-19.
The visitor and volunteer restrictions will last through Aug. 31, with re-evaluations.
SCCPSS is implementing other safety measures, like regularly wiping down spaces, washing hands, providing special equipment for buses and cafeterias, and staggering lunchtimes.
Levett said schools will not be able to socially distance 6 feet.
“If we did that, we would not be able to serve all of our children,” she added.
SCCPSS plans to monitor local case numbers and maintain in-person instruction five days a week for the full school year.
“Throughout all of this, we have tried to follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance and the CDC guidance has simply said in the past several weeks that the numbers are escalating and it’s important that we protect our young people,” Levett explained. “What we do know are vaccinations and masking are two important strategies.”
Many parents across the district believe masks should be optional but say they’ll do what’s necessary to keep kids inside the classroom.
“Me, as a business owner, mom of three boys, just super busy, I don’t have time. So if you tell me this is what we have to do, great, OK,” said parent Marianne Poppell. “Does it stink? Yes. Do I want to do it? No, but I will, because that’s what we’re being told was safe right now.”