Teachers will greet their students with smiles behind their masks when classes resume this week for Bowling Green City Schools.
For many, it will be like the first day of school.
Math teacher Shawn Kiss said he will welcome his students “with smiling eyes because they can’t see our face.”
Kiss has taught at the high school for five years and coaches football and track.
“We’re just excited to see kids,” he said. “It’s been so long online; we’ve almost been online for a year. I just can’t wait to see the kids and be back in the classroom and have interactions with them and be able to monitor them a little better.”
His desks are spread out with a student sitting in every other seat and they can’t move around the room like they used to.
“But it’s still better having them in person than online,” Kiss said.
Without the vaccine — the first dose was administered to Wood County teachers on Friday — he said he still would be OK with returning because of all the safety measures in place.
“But I feel much more confident with the vaccine,” he said.
Maggie Convery, math teacher at BGHS, said she is both excited and nervous about the return to the classroom.
“I’m excited to be back with kids (but) it feels like the first day of school jitters a little bit,” she said. “I’m excited to see kids and it’s time. We know a lot more than we knew in the spring or the fall.”
Beth Vaughn, who has taught choir at the high school for seven years, said she also feels like a first-year teacher in a new school year.
She will greet kids with an air fist bump and is sure they will be able to hear the excitement in her voice. Vaughn said she will be glad to hear voices singing once again.
“I think it will help them become stronger musicians,” she said about having half her class at one time. “They have to become more individualized, but I think after not singing together for a year, we’ll deal with the smaller groups.”
It’s nerve-wracking to make sure all the protocols are in place, but Vaughn said she is excited to be working with students again.
Matthew Caris, who teaches biology and environmental science at the high school, said he is both nervous and excited to return.
“The reason you get into teaching is to work with the kids so it’s exciting to get to do that in person,” he said.
Jessica Young, an intervention specialist at Conneaut Elementary, said she was excited to get the vaccine before heading back Tuesday.
Her classroom is set up for social distancing with dividers.
“It’s definitely going to be different but I’m excited that we have these safety precautions put in place and ready for the students to come back,” Young said.
Conneaut is planning a spirit week to welcome back students with the goal of making sure they feel comfortable and explaining the safety precautions, said Young, who is excited to return to school and thanked the administration for keeping teachers up to date on all the processes and procedures.
Jeff Nichols, who teaches at the high school, said he is nervous about getting the kids into a routine.
“We’re going to have kids coming back into school for the first time in about a year and a lot of them are used to what school used to be and now we have all these protocols, and so there’s a little apprehension. But it’s not about getting the disease, it’s about how everybody’s going to react to what the new normal is going to be,” he said.
Teachers who were not comfortable returning to the classroom were offered teaching the NOVA online alternative.
“The administration worked pretty hard on that,” Nichols said.
Courtney Boswell is excited about forming better relationships by having half of her class at a time. The middle school choir teacher also is excited to return and see the kids and once again listen to them.
She would have had to really think about returning Tuesday without the vaccine.
“There were a lot of unknowns in August and now we have more of an idea,” Boswellsaid. “This year is about being flexible.”
“I think everybody is just excited,” said Superintendent Francis Scruci last week. “Obviously (students are going to feel welcomed because our teachers are just bursting at the seams to get the kids back and they’re going to feel like rock stars when they come in the school.”
He estimated that 300 students were going to stay online on NOVA.
Scruci did not see a significant increase in student departure through open enrollment but there were a number who switched to online programs such as the Ohio Virtual Academy.
“But we anticipate a lot of those kids will re-enroll,” he said.
“Of course, I would be happier if it were five days a week,” said Jessica Swaisgood, who formed BG VOICE last year in support of parents who wanted their children back in school in August. “But at this point, we’re happy with what we get.
“At least I’m glad my kids will get a chance to go to school next week.”
Swaisgood added that she is still concerned if hybrid will continue until the end of this school year and into next fall.
“But right now, I’m just looking forward to next week,” she said.
Deb Mathias said she would love to welcome her students back with hugs but will settle for a big smile through a face mask.
As the volleyball coach she had contact with some students last fall but misses the daily interaction with her social studies students at the high school.
The vaccine “helps tremendously and it helps with your psyche … and it’s an added preventative. I definitely think it’s a good thing and I’m glad that I’ve gotten it,” Mathias said.
Drama teacher JoBeth Gonzalez said she is excited to get the first vaccine but there are enough safety precautions in place in the schools and it is safe to go back.
“I’m willing to jump right in,” she said.
She said she picked “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” as the spring musical because of the small cast size.
With smaller classes, Gonzalez said she can give more attention to the kids when they are here.
She would love to return to classes five days a week by the end of the school year.
“If we can make that happen,” Gonzalez said. “I think safety has to come first.
“If we can recognize the benefits of coming back five days a week outweigh the disadvantages, I think we’re all so eager for that.”