Parents send kids off to middle school with excitement, worry about the new year

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 5:18 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The first day of school always brings a mix of emotions, but this year it's a little more complicated.

"I told my daughter yesterday the excitement was there, but so is the worry," Kayma Pence said, whose eighth grade daughter Alaina started her third year at Dawes Middle School Thursday morning.

Pence said it hasn't been an easy summer, and there's been a lot of unknowns about what the school year would bring and what decision would be best for her family, given Alaina's asthma and the health of her infant daughter.

But at the end of the day, Pence said Alaina needed the regular schedule, needed to be with her friends.

"We weighed our options, we shed tears, we yelled at each other, you know eighth grade emotions run high, but we made that decision to let her try it out," Pence said.

So Pence took Alaina's picture in front of the wooden Dawes Middle School sign and hugged her goodbye, and Alaina walked into school.

About 75 percent of the more than 400 students at Dawes made that same decision and the staff said they're so glad they did.

“Having kids back is amazing, that’s what we’re here for - the energy and the smiles and excitement,” Dawes Principal Liz Miller said.

Though it took careful planning and a lot of changes to get there.

The students and staff are all wearing masks, there’s hand sanitizing stations everywhere and the kids are working on learning to social distance in the hallway, classroom and cafeteria, with signs, stickers and markings along the way to help them.

"This is teaching them just like all of us, that you have to monitor and adjust, it's a life skill," Pat Hunter-Pirtle, director of secondary education said.

The staff know the parents are nervous, but are asking for them to trust the district.

"Of course we know about the pandemic and we're worried about it," Hunter-Pirtle said. "But if you're in education you know kids need to be in school, they need to be learning."

Everyone is just hoping for the best - staff, students and parents alike.

Right now four staff members have reported they’re self quarantining, with one staff member testing positive for the Coronavirus before school started.

“I hope it goes well for everybody, the staff, the teachers, the custodians,” Pence said. “I know they’re all working hard to make sure everyone is healthy.”

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