My first official day on the school calendar was August 4th. I had been working for a few days prior, getting the lay of the land in my new but familiar library. We had to fill in a spreadsheet marking our comings and goings, limited time slots ensuring the ability to social distance. Technically, I was not required to be on campus, but much of the work I had to accomplish couldn't be done virtually. Some meeting days were spent at home, reminding me of our shelter-in-place spring.
The teachers' first official day was August 10th, a trade day for summer training, so the staff met virtually for the first time on the 11th. Another day of online meetings; was I on campus, or off? I can't remember, as my schedule seemed to change every day. A few more teachers crossed paths with me on campus, but not many as the district was still honing its cleaning protocols and promoting work from home. The focus of preparation was our new learning management system, confiscating days of training.
The students' first official day was August 20th--a virtual back-to-school riddled with technological glitches. Librarians joined instructional tech staff and educational assistants in a network of help desks, answering questions about logging in to the new LMS, Google Meets, and connectivity. Two weeks into virtual schooling, the dust began to settle a bit.
The teachers' first official day on campus was September 8th, an asynchronous learning day for students so teachers could be trained once again, only this time for on-campus COVID protocols. Rooms were finally set up, but sparsely to allow the social distancing of roughly thirty percent of the student population whose parents opted for in-person learning. Schedules must allow time for regular cleaning throughout the day.
The in-person students' first day is today. Orientation now includes presentations on social distancing, wearing masks, and using the hand sanitizing stations. Support staff like myself are being used in novel ways; on our campus, we are assigned specific classes to monitor during specials as students remain in their classrooms, to allow their teachers planning time and keep bubbles as contained as possible. Class sizes were still changing as of yesterday, as parents were making last-minute decisions to keep their students at home.
Two more "first days" than usual for me; I wonder if there will be any more as we navigate this unmapped COVID landscape? The optimist in me thinks that our sanitizing and distancing efforts will bring low risk of infection and a fairly healthy fall semester; the realist in me knows that we are dealing with many "bubbles" intersecting with our campus, and that children's behavior doesn't always fall neatly within protocols.
Mask, face shield, and sanitizer in hand, I venture into the fifth first day of school this year.