Elvin Hill students start back to school

Published 8:32 am Friday, August 14, 2020

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

COLUMBIANA – When students went home two months early on March 13 to conclude the 2019-2020 school year, Elvin Hill Elementary School Principal Courtney Madison wasn’t sure when she’d see the bright smiling faces of the kids she’d come to know during her first year as an administrator at the school.

But after months of uncertainty and hours of dedication this summer to get the school ready, Madison and the teachers at EHES saw those bright faces once more on Thursday, Aug. 13.

Filing off the bus and out of cars, students waved by to their families, some shedding tears and others smiles, before turning to see the welcoming administrators and teachers beaming with smiles to see them back for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

“There was just a buzz. You could tell they were excited to be back,” Madison said. “Faculty and staff were excited to see those faces. You see a little one you haven’t seen in a while, and you have to catch yourself and do waves and air hugs because you want to hug them but can’t.

“It was such a great feeling to get back to what we do in the building. There is nothing like seeing those babies’ faces. It gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart.”

But Madison admitted the return to school didn’t come without its share of challenges.

“The unknown was like the great build up,” she said. “Through the summer, we knew things were going to be different, but we knew the plan wouldn’t be in place until close to the start date. We looked through everything and planned through all scenarios just to be prepared for whatever was coming our way.”

Madison and the administrators met with the School Leadership Team to go through the different phases of starting back (green, yellow and red) and formed a plan of action for the teachers, students and parents.

At the end of every plan was one common theme—the students.

“At the end of the day, we know that we are serving people. That’s our goal,” Madison said. “It’s going to be a great year. Whatever it takes every day. We’re going to have to think about every parent, every teacher and every student to make sure we stay true to helping them the best we can.”

And with one day in the books, it’s off to a good start.

“It has gone better than I could have ever imagined, and I know that has to do with half the kids in the building, but the day has gone so smooth,” Madison said after the lunch rush. “Students are getting into the new normal of the one way hallways, wearing masks and keeping distance. They are resilient and have handled changes very well.”

In addition to the changes for the students, teachers are having to make changes as well. Some are teaching virtually, while others are having to teach half of their class on Monday and Tuesday and the other half on Wednesday and Thursday.

They’re also having to teach virtually to the other half of the class that isn’t there on those days as well as Wednesdays.

That has led to stress and anxiety for many teachers, but Madison has seen the work they have put in and says they’re all trying to get through the unknown together.

“There was that element of anxiousness coming in,” Madison said of the first day. “There is no blueprint for teaching during a pandemic. Nobody has ever done this before so if it doesn’t go right the first time, I make sure they know we can change it.”

But overall, the teachers are back to doing what they love, which is impacting the lives of their students.

“The teachers hopped right in like they’ve always done,” Madison said. “Some of them have pushed beyond limits they probably didn’t even know they had. There is a lot for them to keep an eye on. There has been so much thrown at them from when the plan first came out to (the day before school started), but they’ve handled it like champs and it’s been business as usual.”

From the administrative staff arriving at 4:30 a.m. to the teachers preparing to give their students the best learning environment to the parents and students back in their routines, everyone is doing their part to start this year off on the right foot.