Even in normal times, the first day of school is a time of excitement and anxiety, but this year it’s all magnified by the pandemic and the current surge fueled by the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Last year, roughly half the students in Broward County Public Schools stayed home for remote learning. This year, everyone’s expected back in the classroom and that creates challenges of its own.
Tuesday morning, NBC 6 visited two schools to see teachers and kids getting ready for opening day.
At Wilton Manors Elementary School, parents brought their children in for orientation, where they met their teachers and found their classrooms. These were big steps because after a year of remote learning due to the pandemic, many kids haven’t ever been to school.
“I’m kinda scared but I kind of want them out of the house and back to school where they can interact and learn better than being home,” said Sheann Miller, speaking of her three children.
“I feel comfortable with him wearing a mask, I feel good. I’m excited for him to go to kindergarten,” said Gregory Chase, speaking about his son, Lincoln.
Teachers at his school, like their colleagues all over Broward County, were busy preparing their classrooms for a full house expected Wednesday morning.
“We’re all starting fresh and now that they’re coming into the classroom, I’m looking forward to it, super excited,” said fourth grade teacher, Jennifer McClure.
Although it is a different grade level, Fort Lauderdale High School is experiencing the same level of anticipation.
“Very excited, ready to get back with the students. The online learning was an adjustment. We make our connections with the students, so we like having them face to face. We’re excited,” said algebra teacher Tina Lovett.
At every school the teachers know they have their work cut out for them getting kids back up to speed after the “COVID slide” of learning losses.
“Acceleration, not remediation,” said chief academic officer Dan Gohl.
This is the district’s philosophy. Teachers already know where each student stands academically coming into this year.
“But what we need to make sure of is that we are not limiting this student’s achievements this year based on their performance under COVID-19,” Gohl said.
The educators we met are anxious to meet the kids and motivate them to reach their potentials.
"We’re super excited to have them and be able to interact with them and see them in person and just give them that love and care and emotional support they need during this time,” said Jennifer Simplice, who teaches math at Fort Lauderdale High.
So what happens when the inevitable quarantine hits? How do kids keep up with their work from home when distance learning is not an option?
The district says students can see their lessons on its Canvas system where they can listen to live audio feeds from their classrooms, and get help from a teacher through the Ask BRIA system.