A familiar place with unfamiliar changes on Aiken County schools’ first day

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 5:28 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Masks in hallways, classrooms, and cafeterias: it’s becoming a new normal. Aiken County students had no exception today as they started the new year.

Students are starting with a hybrid model, but soon, the district hopes for the opportunity to return to the traditional in-person learning. They are creating plans to accomplish that.

Students in Aiken County returned a familiar place -- with unfamiliar changes.

“Tense. It’s been very tense all summer. We knew that this day was coming. We’ve all been excited about it,” King Laurence, superintendent of Aiken County schools, said.

Laurence also stopped by a few schools to see the changes.

“Their children are cooperating; they’re doing what we’ve asked them to do. Parents, you’ve done an incredible job of getting your children ready for school,” he said.

Adjusting to change can be hard, so the staff at Oakwood-Windsor Elementary School used the first day to teach students about new expectations.

“This is not normal, of course. But this is our new normal,” Davina Truitt, principal of Oakwood-Windsor Elementary, said. “And so, we spent a great deal of time last week during teacher prep time, talking about the need to teach our kids about these health and safety precautions. That’s a part of our rituals and routines now.”

Other than the masks, arrows in the halls, and closed water fountains, the small class sizes are a very noticeable change.

“Of course, within the classrooms, we have only half of our kids here today each day. But the desks are situated in a way to where students are six feet apart so that they can take mask breaks.”

The elementary kids stay in the classroom for lunch and related arts. High schoolers venture to the cafeteria but remain eating lunch at a distance.

But the bigger plan is to reopen elementary schools to traditional learning for five days a week on Sept. 21.

“If we have problems with an outbreak or something like that, or if the virus trends start going back up again in Aiken County, then we’ll certainly reevaluate that. We’re not going to do anything that we don’t believe is in the best interest of our students and families,” Laurence said.

And for the other half of the students who choose the traditional learning route will return to school for their first day Wednesday.

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