(Posted March 10, 2021)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
Jefferson Local Schools is one step closer to normalcy. On March 9, the school board voted to return students in grades 6-12 to in-person learning four days a week starting March 15.
The change does not impact Norwood Elementary, where students already are meeting fully in-person.
In preparation for the students’ return, the district has transformed the high school/middle school auditeria to accommodate social distancing. Rows of individual desks facing in the same direction now fill the entrance, the stage is home to 10 tables with seating for only 20, and tables that normally seat many students now only seat two each.
“It’s been a long time since March 2020,” said Superintendent William Mullett, who reported that 85 percent of school employees received their first vaccine on Feb. 26 and will be fully vaccinated on March 19.
“It’s a lot of work to get everything ready and within social distancing.”
Students in grades 6-12 will attend classes in-person Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with e-learning on Wednesdays. The district plans to have early release for grades K-5 on Wednesdays.
“Our Wednesday e-learning allows our staff time to serve remote learners, as well as anyone in quarantine or isolation as a result of COVID,” Mullett said.
“While the current number of infections is very low, we’ll continue to monitor closely. Should we see a surge in our numbers, we can return to our hybrid model. We will always have the safety of our students and staff our priority.”
School board member David Harper said changes in education since the pandemic started have been devastating for children, and he thinks the school system’s return to more normal operations is “great.”
Mullett also announced the district’s intention to return to its traditional graduation ceremony this spring in the stadium, albeit under COVID-19 protocols.
“We are also planning to have other year-end events, such as prom and awards ceremonies,” he said.
In other action, the board accepted Debbie Omen’s resignation for retirement purposes effective June 30. Omen is principal at the middle school. Her career in education spans 40 years.
Harper praised Omen for the way she reaches out to students and cares for them in times of need.
Mullett said Omen was the West Jefferson Education Association president when he started working for the district. He said it has been a great pleasure having her as a member of the staff.
“As good as Deb has been as a teacher and principal, she’s 10 times better as a person,” Mullett said.