Chelsea Park welcomes students back for first day of school

CHELSEA – The Chelsea Park Elementary School campus was full of activity on Thursday, Aug. 13, as the first wave of students arrived for the first day of the 2020-2021 school year.

After much preparation and meticulous planning with COVID-19 guidelines, CPES Principal Jennifer Galloway and her staff were eager to greet students and help them find their classrooms.

“It has been one of the smoothest starts,” Galloway said. “We have worked so hard, and it seemed like so much at one time happening. I guess all that hard work paid off.”

Shelby County Schools, including CPES, are beginning the year in the “Cautious Together” phase of the district’s reopening plan, which includes a staggered schedule for students to allow for social distancing in the school buildings.

On Aug. 13, students whose last names begin with the letters A-J reported to the school for in-person instruction, while students whose last names begin with the letters K-Z were to go in-person on Aug. 14.

For kindergarteners new to the school, CPES mailed color-coded name tags with their teachers’ names to them prior to the first day. Each teacher waited in the lunchroom for every child in her class to arrive before walking them to the classroom together.

Fifth-grade helpers were available to help other new students find their classrooms.

“Everybody had someone greeting them, and there were lots of smiles in the building,” Galloway said. “I walked around and visited every classroom. It was all good. Our hearts were overjoyed just to have them back in the building.”

Galloway said her teachers have taken the many changes related to school this year in stride and have done a phenomenal job with adhering to guidelines, such as maintaining the required 6 feet of distance between students’ desks.

“It has obviously been a challenge, but they have been so strong,” she said. “They take it and they think outside the box. We’re going to make this work, but at same time keep them socially distanced from each other.”

Galloway said her teachers who are working with remote learning students got off to a smooth start on the first day, too.

“Our teachers have been working really hard to make sure they’re meeting all the standards the kids need to be back where they need to be,” Galloway said. “They are truly the superstars right now. They love these kids, and they have worked really hard getting prepared for today.”