“The heart and soul are our students.”
Marissa Allan said that while standing in a plaza covered with red dots. The Vista Square Elementary School principal said those red dots will keep children six feet apart when they resume in-person learning Monday. That’s when all the schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District will begin in-person learning for the first time in more than a year.
“It’s a new normal,” said 5th grade teacher Julieta Castruita.
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Castruita sat inside her classroom where each desk was at least six feet from the next desk and each one was now equipped with a tall, clear plastic divider. However, Castruita was simply imagining her students.
“I’m excited because I’m back in the classroom with students, like actual people, human beings,” she smiled.
“I’m excited to come back to in-person learning,” said kindergarten teacher Linda Hernandez.
Her students have never been in a classroom in an elementary school setting. It will also be the first time Hernandez will have to teach her students without leaning over their shoulders.
“I think it will change the way I teach but teaching in general, you have to be flexible,” she said.
“Monday is going to be fabulous!” exclaimed Principal Allan.
She spent Wednesday morning supervising the placement of markers on the ground and poles to make sure students and staff keep safely apart. Most of the week was geared towards preparing the staff for what CVESD expected from them -- keeping their children safe on campus.
“There has been a huge amount of training,” said Allan. “We’ve provided professional development online, videos.”
“Our administrators and our district have given us a few in-services on the precautions we need to take,” said Hernandez. “And precautions that the children need to take.”
“We’ve been doing trainings on how and what to do,” added Castruita. “These are our guidelines: Step one. Step two.”
Besides desks being spread apart, a CVESD spokesperson said each classroom in the district will be equipped with an air purifier and hand sanitizer. Drinking fountains and jungle gym playground equipment will be off-limits. Teachers will oversee enforcing the new safety protocols in the classroom in addition to their normal teaching and discipline tasks.
“That’s going to be the challenge that we’ll get to see next week,” chuckled Hernandez.
CVESD students will also attend either a morning or afternoon session to keep numbers down on campuses. The school district is still offering distance learning for families who don’t feel comfortable returning to school just yet.
For those who do, Castruita said she’s looking forward to Monday morning when parents drop their kids off out front.
“They’re trusting us. They’re trusting me and I’m pretty excited,” she smiled. “I am! I am like, ‘Oh my gosh! I’m actually in with people.'"