LIMA — The return to school for students in Lima and Elida schools felt a bit familiar yet a bit strange in the age of coronavirus.
Everybody had to wear a mask and practice social distancing whether on the bus, in the classroom or eating lunch in the cafeteria.
Overall, things went as smoothly as expected.
“I think it went really well,” said Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima schools. “It really was fantastic, I have to say. I have to tell you, they, the staff, have worked so hard to put protocols in place with traffic patterns and in taking the temperatures (of the students) at the door. They were so organized that everything just went smooth.”
The same was true at Elida schools.
“It was an exciting day around here,” said Joel Mengerink, superintendent of Elida schools. “It was a culmination of a lot of work put into preparing for the first day of school, and it went, you know, just about as smooth as the first day could go for us.”
Months of planning have apparently paid off.
“It was exhausting,” Ackerman said. “We spent a lot of time on it for months, so it was worth all that effort. I don’t know what more protocols we could put in place. Teachers are very creative, and they think of additional things on top of stuff to do, which is just amazing in and of itself, the way they have their desks set up. They’re just very creative, so they’ve enhanced protocols we’ve already put in place. It’s been worth all of the sleepless nights.”
The schools still have a chance to tweak things here and there.
“We can all sit back now and look and see what went real well, and what are some areas that we can make things a little bit better,” Mengerink said. “That’s what we’ll do moving forward and keep trying to get better as we go forward with it.”
An estimated one-quarter of students at Lima schools weren’t on campus on the first day of school, with some parents preferring the online option for their children. Elida estimates that about 20% opted for online learning.
“I think we’re at about between 25 and 30%. That’s going to be my best guess estimate, which then also helps with just the physicalness in the building because it allows for more spacing of kids,” Ackerman said.
Mengerink also noted more space.
“We certainly did. We had fewer kids riding the buses, which was a good thing that allowed everybody to space out a little bit more. In the buildings — the same thing,” he said. “You could tell that there weren’t as many kids, in the buildings and the hallways.”
Elida had actually planned to start classes on Tuesday, but changed that to allow teachers an additional day to get settled.
“Just giving staff a little bit more time to prepare for that first day of school made them feel a little bit more comfortable with their surroundings,” Mengerink said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.