Bear Lake County kids went back to school this past week with joy, expectation, and happiness to be among their friends once again after a long break due to COVID-19. Parents were excited for the start of school as well. However, a cloud of trepidation hangs over them as they worry about what may start with the kids being so close together and the fact any one of them could be carrying the virus asymptomatically and could possibly spread it among one another. However, the need for the kids to be in school, learning and having that face-to-face contact with their teachers, won out.
The first days of school went very well, according to teachers, parents, and students alike.
Avery Hunter, fifth-grader at Georgetown Elementary, said, “It felt good; the school day went really well.”
Treyson Thornton, Kegan Salernl, Tregen Phelps, Tony Nomikos, Dawson Sparks, and Skylar Sparks all said, “Football! But we got destroyed. School went really well and we were glad to be back to see friends, and not be in the house all the time. And girls! And to hang out.”
According to Ethan Thornton, “It felt like it was slow to get used to, but felt normal after a couple of hours. The only real difference was the sanitizers and masks. It still feels like school.”
Ethan’s and Treyson’s mom, Angela Thornton, said, “I like that they’re getting back in the groove and glad to be back with their friends. Since they don’t have so many restrictions, they’re glad to be back to normal – as normal as it can be.”
High School teacher Paul Kucharek said, “It went great! There was a lot of energy at the school. The kids were glad to be back. They seemed to be excited to be back, and the teachers were excited to have the kids back. I’m excited to be in school, in person, face to face with the students, and just hoping we will stay that way as long as we possibly can. It was a great first week.”
Principal Kelsey said the first thing they did at the high school was hold an assembly at the football field to get everyone fired up and excited about school and sports and everything else. Each class had to come up with a class chant and have a competition to see who was the loudest and the best. The seniors usually win; however, the sophomores were so great the judges declared them the winners. Mr. Kelsey said, “The deserved it. They laughed and were creative and did a good job.”
The students were obviously ready to take on the first days of school, and many after them.
During the high school’s opening assembly, Dr. Trevor Jacobsen spoke to the students about the importance of wearing a mask. He stressed to them how wearing a mask is more to protect the “other” person than to protect themselves.
Ethan Thornton said there was a big diversity of “masks and no masks” in the high school. A lot of kids started wearing masks the second day after hearing Dr. Jacobsen speak. In his opinion, a lot of the kids were scared to wear their masks, but after seeing their friends wear them, they knew it was okay. He estimated about half, or a little more, were wearing their masks by the second day of school.
According to Treyson Thornton and his friends at the middle school, they did not wear their masks. The school told them they could wear them if they wanted to, but they chose not to. They didn't see any other kids wearing masks either.
Angela Thornton said, “Both Ethan and Treyson took masks to school, and I left it up to them to wear them or not. I can’t force them to do anything because they will do what they want anyway. I left it up to them to wear them when they think they should.”
Avery Hunter of Georgetown Elementary said she took a mask to school but didn’t wear it. Her teacher told her it was okay to wear them if they wanted to, but they didn’t have to.
According to Secretary Wells, “The kids who brought their masks and wanted to wear them, that was fine, and the ones who didn’t bring them and didn’t want to wear them, that was their personal choice.”
According to Mr. Kelsey, the majority of the teachers and office staff [at the high school] wear masks.
Mr. Kucharek said, “If I’m walking around, if I’m closer than the six feet, I put my mask on.”
One of the big concerns all teachers, parents, and even students have is having to be sent home to learn because of COVID-19. Mr. Kelsey said, “We are doing our best and keeping our fingers crossed we will stay in school in person. That’s the best way to do it to have collaboration.”
Angela Thornton said, “I’m really hopeful about them staying in school, but I think the testing is not super accurate and I think they will end up out of school. If we can even get a month out of it, I will take what I can get. I think the administrators have tried to be hopeful because that’s what [the kids] need right now. Hope.”
Ethan Thornton said, “I think as long as if someone who is sick will stay home, we will be able to go the whole year, but there are some stubborn kids.”
The ones who are really worried are Treyson Thornton and his friends, who said, “We are scared about our grades if we have to go back home. It really messes with our grades.”
This is a huge consideration, and something the parents, teachers, and administration will take into consideration when making the decision whether or not to send the kids home to learn.
We all hope the kids can stay in school for the remainder of the year because they are all so excited and happy to be there. They thrive in the school atmosphere with their friends, sports, and just the learning environment. They don’t mind having to use hand sanitizer and clean up after themselves with Clorox wipes in some of the classrooms. They don’t even care they get “destroyed” in football as long as they can just play.
Let’s be positive and expect the 2020-2021 school year will be the most successful year ever and support the students and teachers in all they do!