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CHS welcomes back students…finally

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

So far, so good.

“It’s going very smoothly, no hiccups,” said Claremont Unified School District interim Superintendent of Schools Julie Olesniewicz, as Claremont secondary schools joined elementary sites this week in welcoming students back on their campuses for the first time since March 13, 2020.

“I was at [Claremont High Monday] morning greeting the first two periods and it just went seamless; the kids lined up, masks on, no issues,” she added.

Claremont and San Antonio high school students are using a smartphone app for COVID screening that screens them daily for possible COVID exposure.

“They get a daily email and fill out the app, ‘Do you have any of these symptoms?, no, ‘Have you been exposed to anyone that has COVID?’, no, and they hit submit,” Ms. Olesniewicz said.  “So when the kids got in line [Monday] they just walked up and showed one of the staff members that they submitted it, and off they went to class. It was really smooth. We had the cheerleaders out there, ASB had music, it was just a fun atmosphere.”

At El Roble Intermediate School, arriving students must show a paper version of the COVID exposure questionnaire, Ms. Olesniewicz said.

Meanwhile, CUSD’s seven elementary schools are two weeks into the latest version of the new  normal.

“I walked two schools today, Oakmont and Vista, and it’s just fabulous to see kids in seats,” Ms. Olesniewicz said. 

Another new wrinkle is all secondary teachers are now teaching simultaneously to both in-class students and those still at home.

“It was fun seeing the teachers juggle what they’re calling ‘roomers and Zoomers,’” Ms. Olesniewicz said. “You’ve got kids in the room and kids on Zoom. So, it was fun to watch.”

The technical challenges of coordinating the new system, combined with the cohort system of in-person attendance at all levels, has added still more new skills to master for teachers who’ve had more than a year of unprecedented change.

“We’ve given out teachers some training, and they’re kind of figuring it out on their own in terms of what works for them,” Ms. Olesniewicz said. “Honestly, we’re in week one for secondary and week two for elementary, and I have a feeling teachers will tweak it and share ideas with each other. It was a little bit different in every classroom that I visited today.”

Now that kids are back on campuses, the natural next step—getting them all back, full time—is on everyone’s mind.

“I’m still very itchy to get back to as normal as I think we’ll ever going to get,” Ms. Olesniewicz said. “I’m hesitant to say ‘get back to normal,’ because I’m not sure normal will ever be what it was, you know? Not just in terms of school, but just in general. But I’m still certainly looking forward to having all of our students back on campus all day long.”

The joy has been palpable around town these past couple of weeks as kids have once again been walking to and from school, riding their bikes and hanging out in the Village. It’s as if a whole swath of hibernating kids have been loosed on the city, with nothing but smiles all around.

“It’s just been fun. It’s been a great two weeks,” Ms. Olesniewicz said. “Part of my fun too is chatting with parents at arrivals, and they’re just so excited to have their kids back, I think some of our parents are more excited [than the kids]. Just lots of really supportive folks and it’s wonderful.”

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