School is already in session at some districts across KELOLAND, while others will start soon.
But there’s something they all have in common right now: trying to teach students during the pandemic.
Chandler Nelson’s classroom is quiet right now, but that’s about to change very soon.
The 2nd grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Watertown is getting ready to welcome more than 20 students to her classroom this year.
“I’m honestly so excited. I have missed just being with kids and being with people,” 2nd Grade Teacher Chandler Nelson said.
As she enters into her third year of teaching, her classroom looks different than it has in the past.
Plastic dividers are set up on the tables that students will share in her room.
She’ll also incorporate changes into her teaching plans.
“Normally, in reading and math, I do reading and math centers where they’re sharing supplies and they’re moving around the room all the time and constantly interacting and playing games, so we’re going to have to brainstorm a little more this year and definitely do more individualizing everything, which isn’t as much fun, but we’re just going to make it work and make the best of the situation,” Nelson said.
Just next door, 2nd grade teacher Emily Hatton’s room looks similar.
“We have a lot going on. We’ve got some dividers. We’ll have new protocols for hand washing and lining up, how close we are to our friends, what we get to use. We’ll get really used to using our own things and now everyone else’s,” 2nd Grade Teacher Emily Hatton said.
She’s ready for her classroom to be bustling with students once again.
“You know, it’s kind of been an anxious feeling getting up to this point, but I’m excited. I’m ready to see kids. I’m ready for routine, and I just think kids need it so I’m ready,” Hatton said.
“Obviously, we’re all a bit nervous, but I think our district is taking really good precautions and our students safe and keeping our staff safe,” Nelson said.
While their 2nd-grade classrooms have dividers, the setup of classrooms across the Watertown School District will vary based on grade level, the building, and the need.
Superintendent Jeff Danielsen says the district is planning for a full return of students, but a virtual option is available for families.
Flexibility will be important this year.
“We will do what we can to keep them in school, but everybody needs to be prepared that at some point the conditions outside of us may precipitate a change to more of that hybrid or even a complete virtual option where we need to just close down the in-person schooling and go online again,” Watertown School District Superintendent Jeff Danielsen said.
The superintendent is also calling on everyone to give each other some grace.
“We’re doing the best we can. There isn’t a magic playbook that we’re being handed on how to do all of this. Schools everywhere are trying to put forth the best face they can. They want your children around. They want them to learn, and so just allowing us kind of that benefit of the doubt that we are trying to do the right thing. And we want to educate your children, and we want to do it well,” Danielsen said.
For teachers, including Hatton and Nelson, that’s what it’s all about.
“I love kids. I love when kids learn something new and the excitement they have when they get to see you. My heart’s always been with kids,” Hatton said.
“I just love to give them all the love and encouragement that they need to continue and grow,” Nelson said.
The Watertown School District begins classes on Thursday, August 27th.