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Community Conversation: Kentucky schools adjust to pandemic learning one year later

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Updated: Mar. 11, 2021 at 11:06 AM CST
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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WFIE) - It’s been nearly a year since schools all across the country shut down their buildings and moved to virtual learning.

When the 2020-21 school year started, several Kentucky school districts adapted to a hybrid learning schedule. Owensboro High School was one of these districts. Students are either in the classroom Monday and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays. Everybody learns virtually on Wednesdays.

14 News visited a freshman class at Owensboro High School. The few students who were in the classroom wore masks and had their desks spaced out.

Todd Houston welcomed those students, and then he fired up his laptop. Several more students were then a part of the class, except they were at their homes. Even the students in the building hopped on their laptops so they could see their peers and vice versa.

Houston says he’s proud of his students for adapting, but virtual learning has brought challenges.

“In a classroom, you can see ‘wow’ moments if your kid is getting a concept that you are trying to get across to them. And it’s really hard to see that virtually,” he said.

Lunchtime looks different for Owensboro students. Instead of long lunch tables, single desks facing the same direction fill the cafeteria.

Starting March 22, those students will head back to the classroom five days a week for the first time in a year. This will be a big change for freshmen who have never walked down a busy high school hallway with everyone in the building.

“It’s going to be a lot transitioning back because I don’t really remember what it used to be like,” freshman Emma Wilkins said.

“I just can’t imagine how much will be going on,” freshman Olivia Wilkins said.

Owensboro Public Schools Public Information Officer Jared Revlett says the district hasn’t had any cases of student-to-student transmission of the virus in a classroom setting this year. That’s exactly what Principal Jim Tinius with Owensboro Catholic Schools said about the K-3 campus.

“We haven’t had any transmissions in our building, and I think that’s because our teachers really bought into what we felt like we needed to do with the masks and the distance between the desks,” Principal Tinius said.

We stopped by the school to see how they’ve adjusted to pandemic-style learning. Owensboro Catholic Schools have had their students in the building five days a week. The desks are spaced out, and plastic dividers tower over students. Students also wear masks in the classroom.

Principal Tinius showed 14 News how a computer lab was transformed into an extra classroom to ensure social distancing with their increased enrollment.

Some students we spoke with said they enjoyed being in the classroom over virtual learning.

“You actually get to see your teacher. There was only a certain amount of time I was allowed to see her on the computer. I get to see her like five hours more,” third-grade student, Henry Haines, said.

“I can see new people,” third-grade student, Ollie Haines, said. “And I can make new friends.”

Principal Tinius credited the year’s success to his teachers and said his goal was to have fun even during a year of unknowns.

“Just taking it one day at a time,” Principal Tinius said, “and making sure everyone was doing the right thing and having fun while doing it.”

Watch our full March 11, 20201 special here.

Kentucky schools adjust to pandemic learning one year later

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