SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah Chatham County Public Schools have filled with students again, and teachers are once again tasked with both online and in-person instruction.
The hallways had been empty since winter break when the school board voted to keep the nearly 36,000 students in the district at home because COVID-19 infection rates were too high.
WSAV visited a class of second graders at Jacob G. Smith Elementary Tuesday who were eager to engage in their daily lesson.
“It’s the first day all over again and teachers were very excited to see them,” said Principal Vernon Cole, “students were excited, parents are excited.”
Jacob G. Smith Elementary educates 450 kids, and close to 280 of them chose the hybrid model of learning, a mix of in-person and online instruction.
The other roughly 150 students elected to stay at home, where they’ll get all their lessons through a computer screen.
One teacher referred to her virtual students who use Zoom as there primary platform “Zoomies.”
Janiyah Johnson, who’s a fifth-grader at Jacob G. Elementary, says online learning was often challenging.
“I was having technical difficulties with my computer and like I wouldn’t be able to unmute when my teacher asked me a question,” said Johnson.
Her concern is just one factor in the push towards in-person learning. Many parents who supported sending kids back to school felt their child wasn’t getting the same quality of education at home.
Cole says they’ve set up supply pickup spots outside the school for parents of virtual learners. He says this is to make sure both groups have the materials they need.
“The goal is to get as much learning as possible,” said Cole. “Because we are doing the dual teaching mode, it is very difficult to make sure that everyone is getting everything that they need.”
“That’s what keeps teachers up at night,” he added.
The principal says getting children in and out of the building as quickly as possible has been the biggest challenge.
He says they are they’re checking masks, screening students and keeping them 6 feet apart.
“I know everyone’s working to try to make sure everyone stays safe,” said Cole.
Parents who elected virtual learning only for their children still have a chance to change their minds. School officials say to be considered, you must contact your child’s school directly by Wednesday, February. 24.