‘We miss them so much:’ Return to school mixes COVID protocols, poignancy

Teachers preparing bulletin boards and enthusiastically welcoming students back to school is something that happens every year, but in March 2021, as children go back to physical classrooms for the first time since the pandemic started, they will also get something to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Each student is going to receive five masks,” says Liza Burrell-Aldana, principal at Mt. Vernon Community School, in Alexandria, Virginia.

Alexandria City Public Schools returns small groups of special education students, and those learning English. Arlington County Public Schools brings hybrid pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade, and special education students back to their classrooms, Tuesday.

“This is the day we’ve been looking forward to,” said Burrell-Aldana. “Everything is ready in the classrooms, to welcome the kids safely.”

In her school, desks have been spread out and safety shields installed.

During virtual learning, students have been told about safety protocols that will be required when they return to school.

Yet, Burrell-Aldana and the teachers are realistic: “We’re going to have students who are going to want to run and hug us — that may happen.”

While the initial return to school will include reinforcing safety steps that are needed to have young people and adults in school buildings, Burrell-Aldana says the thought of an empty school building has been depressing.

She and teachers are bolstered by the fact they “will be doing what they signed up for,” when they became educators, interacting, in-person, with children: “The fact that there’s so much love for our students, and that we miss them so much.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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