WASHINGTON — The doors to D.C. schools will soon reopen. Not just for students, but for teachers and staff who have to get acclimated from Zoom to the classroom-- some for the first time in 18-months.
WUSA9 spoke with teachers and school social workers to learn more about some of the things that remain top of mind for them.
Their biggest concern is their student’s health and safety, returning to class and managing any social anxieties that may arise.
Jacqueline Baron is a school social worker at Digital Pioneers Academy. She’s entering her fourth year with the charter school.
“The first thing that comes to mind is just really keeping scholars and staff safe. I know we have the opportunity to get vaccinated, but I think about our sixth graders who aren't even old enough to be eligible for the vaccine, so I want to make sure when we come back we are taking all of the safety procedures possible to make sure that they feel comfortable being in the building as well as their families feeling comfortable as well,” Baron said.
The year 2020 was unlike any other, while safety against the deadly coronavirus is paramount, her second greatest concern is her student’s mental health.
“Many have experienced some traumatic experiences and so when I think about even just reintegration and being in the school building with that socialization piece that has been missing, that's something that I'm really trying to proactively think through. And then also just making sure that we're able to provide all of the support for mental health, in supporting social-emotional learning, in addition to academics,” Baron added.
Peter Savedge started teaching at Digital Pioneers Academy during the pandemic. This will be his first time interacting with these students in person.
“My biggest concern is that in the excellent work that we do, and all of our safety precautions and trying to take care of ourselves and our scholars and our families, that we inadvertently become carriers and spread these things into communities that don't need any more hardships right now,” Savedge said.
Savedge said he is vaccinated. He said he considered a number of factors while making the decision to get the vaccine.
“It's not about us at the end of the day, it's about the scholars and the families that we serve,” Savedge added.
Though COVID-19 has been at the top of minds for most, Sam Hughes, a history teacher, can’t ignore the social justice movement that was reignited in 2020.
"I think my biggest concern is addressing and trying to repair the trauma of the past year. I think DPA is doing a good job with our team and as a teacher, I'm excited to be back in the classroom. But a lot of my teacher friends are eager to jump back in, almost as if nothing has happened and I just think that's wrong. I think we need to name the brutal facts of what has happened and for a lot of kids, this was a trying year, not just distance learning but everything at home and things they've had to experience. They've been through so much in this past year, politically, socially, and if we don't name those brutal facts and move forward, I think we're not going to be able to get the right foot ahead,” Hughes, said.