SAN ANTONIO – With the start of school only days away, teachers and faculty at San Antonio-area schools have been hard at work preparing for the upcoming school year.
And with the COVID-19 pandemic throwing a curveball into this year’s preparations, school districts are doing more than ever to try and keep students and the community safe.
KSAT spoke to teachers at elementary schools from the North East Independent School District and the Northside Independent School District to see how things were progressing and find out what their expectations are for the new school year.
Anna Nicolai-Knopf, principal of Jackson-Keller Elementary School, said she hopes that parents support the culture of both traditional and virtual learning. She said that with so many unknowns, things are constantly changing and that they are having to continually adapt.
“This upcoming school year will be new territory for us educators,” Nicolai-Knopf said. “I hope we can work together so that we can provide the best instruction for their child. I would expect that we bridge the home and school setting so that our students can be successful.”
Nicolai-Knopf said students should be prepared to listen to their daily lessons, establish a routine, complete their assignments and most importantly ask questions when they don’t understand.
The expectations for her teachers aren’t much different.
“I expect my teachers to make connections with their students and parents,” she said. “I also want them to implement best practices that include higher-order thinking questions, independent work, and to provide feedback and analyze whether the students learned the objective.”
Fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Medcalf said her own expectations are actually very similar to how they were when she had in-person learning.
“This means waking up with enough time to get themselves ready with a charged device and logged onto the Zoom meeting before we start the morning announcements,” she said. “Be present, ask questions and engage in conversations. I also expect open and constant communication with my parents. I want them to know that we are a team, and that I am here to help.”
Annette Robinson, Principal of Adams Hill Elementary, said she has had to work hard to change her way of thinking going into the new school year. She said she now has to be more mindful on how to present things to the staff and make sure they have all that is needed.
“There are definitely more meetings than I have had in the past, she said. “I live on the computer 24/7 and we have had to triple our communication efforts with staff, students, and families. And, on top of all of that, comes the health and safety of all students and staff. We have had to clean and disinfect, set up rooms with plexiglass, sanitizer, masks, face shields and signage throughout the building. This is all on top of making the school an inviting environment for all.”
Robinson said because things are changing rapidly, everyone is having to go with the flow.
“We expect students and parents to take the time to learn the technology and to participate in lessons along with completing work as they would in our classrooms,” Jeanie Maguire, science teacher for Adams Hill Elementary said. It (virtual learning) will help our students understand there is always an opportunity to learn something new and it encourages them to gain valuable skills as 21st-century learners.”
All in all, teachers are chomping at the bit to work with students again, however that may be.
“I think new and experienced teachers are adapting to the changes with an equal amount of anxiety and eagerness,” Tammy Guffey, a third-grade teacher for Adams Hill Elementary said. ”I look forward to learning and working with students again, even though I am mindful of the challenges to come.”