In the meantime we had another first day of school. April 1st was the opening of KGMS: Virtual, our new face to face, real time experience in teaching and learning from home. The connections were still there, the conversations and the sharing of ideas were kept alive, but in the depths of a global pandemic, that was as close as we could get.
Finally, after two months of connecting exclusively on-line, this week we were actually able to take a baby step towards a full return to school in the coming months. About half of our students have returned this week while the rest have continued their online classes and tutoring at home. Needless to say, we were all a bit nervous about what it might mean.
The school had been empty and silent for months. There were many days when I was the only one here and the halls, instead of echoing with happy shouts and conversations, were eerily quiet as we all waited for the day when the doors would open again. That happened on Monday. Our third "first day of school" this year!
Things looked very different for the first arrivals. Classrooms were stripped bare, desks were centred in masking taped islands to keep everyone a safe distance from one another, and students were greeted by a health check, hand-sanitizer, and an escorted walk to meet their teachers. The every other day model that we adopted for our elementary students meant that the whole class still got to meet regularly online and that the students who chose to continue learning at home still saw their tutors and teachers every day. It is not business as usual, but it is a start.
I have had the absolute pleasure of being the official daily "greeter and health checker" for the high school over at our Annex campus, and I can't begin to describe the pure joy of personally welcoming the various cohorts of our returning secondary students as they arrive at school. The set-up is a bit weird, but their teachers and many of their friends are there, and they have been thrilled with the chance to reconnect in person.
Needless to say, this is just the test drive. All of us have made major changes to our habits and lifestyles over the past few months, and school is no different. The lessons that we have learned, and continue to master will inevitably have a profound impact on how we teach, gather, and interact with one another. But even as uncertainty still hangs in the air about what things will look like in September, you can be sure that the next "first day of school" will be like every other one with students and teachers and tutors coming together to learn and enjoy each other's company in whatever form it takes.
That is the one thing about schools that never changes!