Helena Elementary welcomes back students

By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

HELENA – With a multitude of safety measures in place students returned or came for the first time to Helena Elementary School to start the 2020 school year on Thursday, Aug 13.

As schools in the county returned to campus on a staggered basis, the facility saw about half of its students on the first day. Despite the concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, HES Principal Mary Anderson, who recently stepped into her new role, is optimistic about the school’s ability to safely move forward with in-person and virtual learning.

“We are having a great first day of school. I was actually surprised at how smoothly everything ran this morning,” Anderson said. “The kids are happy to be back in the building, and we really did not even have that many kids crying, which is typical for a first day during any year.”

The new atmosphere created by the pandemic and the guidelines in response to it has forced HES to make significant changes, but the school’s overall goal of academics and relationship building is still in place.

“I have told my staff over and over again that I want them to focus on building relationships with our students and parents,” Anderson said. “Our teachers have gone above and beyond. This has been really hard on them trying to plan for social distancing, virtual learning and everything else. They have really stepped up and have done their very best to provide a safe environment in their classrooms.”

Teachers at HES are diligently making sure that the students understand and adapt to the new protocols in place at the school. On top of normal first day activities like going over the syllabus and first assignments, many of the teachers spent time explaining when to use hand sanitizer, social distancing rules and why they have to wear masks.

Anderson said the children were following the precautions and wearing their masks. Some of the students would have themed masks with characters from their favorite movies which made the experience a little more fun.

Aside from traditional learning, some students at HES are also participating in virtual learning which also kicked off. Anderson said that there was a learning curve, but the teachers are doing everything they can to adapt to it.

“Those teachers provide whole group instruction a couple times a week, where they actually teach their lessons or skill via the google meeting platform,” Anderson said. “The other days of the week they meet with smaller groups of students to focus more on individual needs.”

As the school year kicks off, teachers are focusing on assessing students not only on where they are academically, but also how they relate to massive changes that everyone is currently experiencing.

Looking forward to the future, Anderson said that based on this first day she is optimistic about the year ahead. The teachers, students and their parents are all coming together to get through this difficult time as best as possible.

“This school is amazing. The people in the school, these teachers love what they do. They just have a passion for children,” Anderson said. “The community overall has just been very supportive and great.”