That’s the word Elizabeth School District Superintendent Douglas Bissonette used to describe the return of nearly 2,400 students to schools within the Elizabeth School District.
“Everybody is so happy to be back at school that they’re doing everything with gusto,” said Bissonette. “All the sounds of school are so fun to hear. Elementary kids on the playground laughing and playing, teachers with their doors open so we can hear them teaching, kids laughing in the hallways. It’s pretty joyous.”
Students at the district’s schools returned for in-person learning Aug. 24, and according to Bissonette, both teachers and students are adhering to new social distancing guidelines and facial covering mandates as much as possible. Bissonette said about 10% of students opted for the online learning option, provided by Colorado Digital Learning Solutions.
“It’s gone better than we expected,” said Bissonette. “This, I think, is a labor of love for many of our teachers, and for some it has re-energized their passion for teaching. The students are just so glad to be back at school that they’re all trying really hard to adapt to some of the changes.
The district focused on mitigation strategies that would impact the schools most, with the least amount of change for students when possible, including using the HVAC system to create a 100% air turnover every night. They have also implemented enhanced cleaning procedures, and teachers have utilized outdoor spaces when possible to teach classes.
“We tried not to have too many changes at once, so we focused on those things that best impacted the spread of COVID-19,” said Bissonette. “Of course the masks are a big change, but we’ve had full cooperation at the secondary schools and about 50% voluntary mask wearing at the elementary school.”
While the cafeterias no longer serve a salad bar, school lunches look much like they did before the pandemic. Some students have enjoyed eating lunches outside, while older students who have open campuses leave the school to eat. An additional lunch period was added at the high school to help maintain social distancing, and the district is in the process of putting mobile hand washing stations outside every cafeteria.
So far the school has had no issues with COVID-19 in the schools, but Bissonette said it’s inevitable that a student or staff member will test positive eventually.
“It will be inevitable when someone comes in with the virus, through no fault of their own, and we’re as prepared as we can be,” said Bissonette. “If a student, group or even a class needs to be learning from home for quarantine reasons, we will be able to live broadcast a class.”
Transportation has also gone smoothly, according to Bissonette, with students required to wear masks on the bus, and as long as the weather remains nice bus windows are opened up to provide increased air circulation.
“It’s been amazing,” said Bissonette. “Everyone is so excited to be back and it’s good to have everyone back.”