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Back to school: RDC students, teachers glad to be back on campus

Principal Dustin Howard, wearing his Cardinals gaiter over his long beard, greeted Montez Gay when he arrived at Robert D. Campbell Junior High School after a long absence.

“I wish I could hug you!” he told the youth, but instead they did an elbow bump.

Asked how he felt to see the familiar faces of his students, the principal said, “I’m ecstatic!”

Most of the kids and teachers were also happy to be back on campus this week.

Thursday morning, Hannah Skaggs, Trentity Jackson,and Joseph Allen were hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the school as other students were getting off of the buses and out of their family cars.

“I didn’t get to see my friends while we were virtual,” she said, because most of them had their cameras off when online, so it felt good to get to be with them.

Students returned to schools this week for the first time since before Thanksgiving. They are in hybrid learning, meaning they go to school two days a week and learn from home three days.

Hannah likes the in-person days better.

“I don’t feel like I’m learning as much as I am in regular school. Online is a lot more difficult, and it’s not processing in my mind as it would be if I were … in school.”

Trentity and Joseph agreed that virtual was harder, academically and socially.

“It felt like a drag, and I didn’t really want to do it,” Joseph said, but added that it’s “good to be back.”

As students arrived Thursday morning, they stayed outside under the awning until school officials signaled for them to come inside. Then they had their temperatures checked and were given their class schedules.

In Amber Murphy’s seventh-grade social studies classroom, students were masked and spaced six feet apart to reduce the possibility of spreading the coronavirus. As they waited for breakfast to arrive, the students weren’t talking to each other, just looking at their Chromebooks.

Daniela Sanchez said she liked working from home and would rather continue distance learning.

But Leo Pablo said he liked being back because he missed his friends. He didn’t get to see them when he was doing distance learning, he said, but he got to play online games with some of them.

Hayden Caudill said she was happy to be back too, but she didn’t find virtual learning difficult.

“At first it was harder,” she said, but after a while, she adjusted to it.

She said she felt safer from the virus at home, though.

Murphy said virtual instruction had been harder for the teachers, but “we kind of made the most of it.”

“We were still able to help the students, but we are definitely excited that they are back in the building with us,” she said.

Murphy and Caitlin Soper, a seventh-grade science teacher, said it was harder to connect with the students online.

Even when the kids have their cameras on, Soper said, it’s hard to read their body language and know “what they’re thinking, what’s going on” with them, or if they’re having problems, she said.

Teachers had to adapt to online instruction almost overnight and it was quite a “learning curve” for them as well as students, she said.

“This year teachers kind of stepped up their game as far as being able to do things online and virtually — a lot of online simulation and things like that, things we would normally do hands on,” she said.

Some teachers have been reluctant to return to the classroom because of the dangers of COVID-19, but Superintendent Paul Christy recently made the decision to return to hybrid instruction when the numbers of coronavirus cases fell below the critical category and teachers had their first round of vaccinations. The second round is scheduled for this Saturday at RDC.

Full in-person learning is supposed to resume March 15.

“I feel they’ve done as much as they can to keep everybody safe while still trying to get the kids in,” Soper said. “They’re just naturally going to learn better when they’re here.”

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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