Wysong Elementary has first day back to school, with masks and distancing as the first lesson

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 4:17 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - After six months of empty hallways, Wysong Elementary School was once again buzzing with excitement.

“I wish I could have captured this kindergartner, he was jumping up and down just so excited to be here, another student handed his teacher flowers,” Cindy Schwaninger, Elementary Education Director for LPS said.

Wysong, which is located near 56th and Yankee Hill, had the lowest opt out rate in the district, with 93 percent of its students choosing to come back to school.

Schwaninger said from the outside, it looked like any other first day of school.

But this year, students have some new lessons to learn.

The first ones are mask wearing and social distancing.

Schwaninger said every student came to school in a mask and they're working on getting kids used to distancing.

Wysong Principal, Randy Oltman, led reporters through the school as students were learning what their school year will look like.

The first stop was the cafeteria, where fifth graders learned they’ll sit with their classmates at lunch, all facing one direction or distanced at round tables.

“They’ll wear masks until seated, then remove it while eating, and as soon as they’re done eating the mask goes back on while they’re sitting at the table and taking their trays back,” Schwaninger said.

The meals will also be plated for the students not self-serve.

Next, reporters visited a fourth grade classroom.

The students were all wearing masks and sitting at tables all facing one direction.

Oltman said one of the biggest challenges they faced in preparations was finding space to distance in classrooms, but he said the health department said having the students in masks and all facing one direction will help.

To further prevent the spread, the students will also remain with their specific classroom all throughout lunch and the rest of the day.

“They will stay with that classroom cohort,” Schwininger said. “That was recommendation from the Health Department to help with contact tracing. We want to minimize contacts so even at recess we’ve identified recess zones so the walking track could be a zone, the grassy area could be a zone, the basketball four square area will be a zone.”

Schwaninger said overall the students were adapting quickly, though with elementary kids it can be a bigger learning curve.

"We have to give patience to the little once," she said. They will have face covering breaks and if it's hard we'll practice, we'll have lessons then practice some more."

While at the school, 10/11 NOW saw a teacher giving her class a mask break. The class walked in a line out of the school and once all students were distanced from one another, they were able to take their masks off and take a short walk.

Schwaninger said she believes the district has done the best it can do to keep kids safe, but that doesn't mean they don't hear the concerns of parents and teachers.

“This is a pandemic, it is a virus and I don’t want to belittle that,” Schwaninger said. “We just want them to know we’re doing our best.”

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