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Local teachers look ahead to start of school year

As administrators continue to prepare for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year, local teachers are looking ahead with cautious optimism.

Tammy Calhoun, Banks Middle School, said these are different times and times that are worrisome for parents, children and teachers.

“I’m a cancer survivor and, sure, I’m worried,” Calhoun said. “But kids need to be in school and at, some time, children are going to have to go back to school. They learn better one-to-one. They miss their friends and their teachers and we miss them.”

Calhoun said the Pike County School System is doing everything possible to keep the students and teachers safe when they return to school.

“There will be temperature checks, masks, social distancing  … but still there is concern,” she said. “Parents have worries about their children coming home after having been around other children. Especially parents who have health concerns. And, there is the possibility of the students bringing the virus home to elderly grandparents and relatives. There are just a lot of concerns and there are still too many things we don’t know about COVID-19 and how it is transmitted.”

Calhoun said when the schools open, administrators and teachers will do the best they can to keep the children safe.

“But, like Dr. Bazzell said, ‘It’s not opening school that’s a concern; it’s keeping it open.’”

Chris Saffold, math teacher at Pike County Elementary School, has been “safer at home” since the beginning of COVID-19. And, yes, he does have concerns about being back in the classroom.

“Honestly, I have had some thoughts of not going back in the classroom this year,” he said. “I know  a teacher who resigned because of concerns about the coronavirus and there may be others.”

Saffold said his concern is more for the students and his parents than himself.

“At the school, we have window air conditioning units that will keep the air circulating,” he said. “The students will be breathing the same air continually and that is a concern.”

Saffold said the students come from different environments and that increases exposure in the classroom.

“As for me, my concern is for my parents who are older and are at greater risk,” he said. “But I am confident that the school administration will do everything possible to keep everyone safe and the teachers and parents will have to do their parts, too.”

Becky Brooks is a teacher and she has children in the Pike County School System.

Right now, her plans are for her kids to be back in school.

“Children need to be in school because school is so important and, too, they need to be around other people,” Brooks said. “My two younger children miss being in school. They want to go back and I want them to go back. My two older children already do most of what they do on line. When school opens, parents who decided for their children to attend school, can know that everything that can be done will be done to keep the students and teachers safe.”

Brooks said, as a teacher, there is personal concern.

“As teachers, we are older and, usually, the virus is worse on older people,” she said. “So, we have reason to worry. What is going on right now is scary but we have to keep on going.”

Tina Lieb, Charles Henderson High School, said the COVID-19 situation remains fluid and she is trusting in the leadership to keep everyone as safe as possible when schools open.

“As we get closer to the return of students to school, my concern is that children will get sick, contract the virus, and take it home to parents and grandparents,” she said. “We are a family- oriented community and, therefore, more of our elderly and medically fragile members could be exposed to the virus. My concern is also that people will get sick.”

Lieb said teachers must be concerned for themselves and that they don’t  get sick and spread the virus among others.

“As we get closer to opening our schools, we will trust that good administrative decisions will be made, based on the data when the time comes,” she said.

Jennifer Giles, Troy Elementary School, said her concern is, of course, for the students but for herself and other teachers as well.

“I’m concerned with what we can do to prevent the virus, if it should happen, from spreading from one classroom to another,” she said. “Are the classrooms far enough away from each other to keep that from happening?”

Giles said the students share hallways and restrooms, so would it be possible for COVID-19 to start in one classroom and spread throughout the school?

“Will the students wear the masks as they should, and wash their hands often enough?” she said. “I would hate for a child to get sick and carry the virus home to elderly grandparents who could get sick.”

Giles said she has diabetes and that is a concern for her.

“My 78-year-old mother lives with me and our premature baby so, yes, I’m concerned. I don’t want to bring the virus home to them,” Giles said. “As far as the students, the children, right now, I’m more concerned about their health.

“But I trust in our administration and, knowing they have more information than I do, when they make a decision, I will be behind them 100 percent. And, I will also trust, that, if the coronavirus gets worse, they will draw back.”

Gwen Bean Davis is a resource teacher at Charles Henderson Middle School. Her classroom is self-contained.

“When students start back to school, safety must be number one,” Davis said. “I would be leery in situations where there are more than 10 students in a classroom. In those classes, I would think the students would need training on how to act in that kind of environment because they won’t already know.”

Davis said it would be beneficial for parents to also know and understand the new classroom environments.

“The parents need to understand so they can support the teachers in keeping their children safe,” she said. “I have a low number of students so social distancing is not a concern.

“But I am diabetic so I have to be vigilant as far as my safety is concerned. But if the time comes for teachers to be concerned, I’m sure that we will be notified so that we can take precautions.”