It was all hands on deck at elementary and middle schools throughout Des Moines today as teachers and staff made sure everything was ready for students returning to school. Nearly 60% of DMPS students will begin more in-person learning in the coming days as the hybrid learning model gets underway for grades K-5 on Monday, October 19 and grades 6-8 on Monday, October 26.
As students spent the day in self-direct online learning, the teachers they have only seen on a screen for the past several weeks were busy getting ready to welcome them back in the coming days, a transition from 2-D to 3-D education, so to speak.
In school buildings across the city, signs were everywhere to remind people of the basic public health steps to stay safe and health during the COVID-19 pandemic: reminders to wear masks and wash hands, arrows to guide the flow of traffic, water fountains closes and replaced with water bottle filling stations, and marks on the floor to maintain as much social distancing as possible.
At Hubbell Elementary School, the classrooms were arranged with the desks spread out to maximum the space between students. While Monday is the first day back in the classroom for many students, it is the first day in the classroom for some teachers, too. This is the first year at DMPS for 1st grade teacher Alyssa Louison, who moved to Des Moines from having taught in Sioux City. She was putting the finishing touches on her new classroom, labelling desks with the names of students who will be using them on an alternating basis – some on Monday/Tuesday and others on Thursday/Friday – throughout each week.
Down the road to the west, Cowles Montessori School has already had some experience with students back at school, as their combined Preschool/Kindgergarten classes got underway this past Monday. Serving students in grades PK-8, Cowles will almost experience the entire gamut of the transition to hybrid learning as the youngest students began this week, the elementary grades get underway on Monday, and the upper grades the following week. So as the Preschool/Kindergarten students were wrapping up their first week of in-person learning, teachers in the remaining classrooms were sorting and arranging their learning spaces.
Across town, at Capitol View Elementary School, a new obstacle course awaits students. The track that runs around the school’s playground now has challenges for students to do jumping jacks or yoga poses or hop on one foot, along with a couple of dozen other feats. While its primary purpose is physical health and wellness, it also serves a bit of a public health role by keeping students physically spread out as they take on the different tasks around the course.
The last “normal” day of school at DMPS was March 13. During the 220 days since then, the world is a different place as we’ve gone from a great deal of uncertainty about COVID-19 to realizing its devastating impact. As Iowa continues to be one of the nation’s hot spots for the Coronavirus, DMPS is doing everything possible to providing those students who want in-person learning with a great education while trying to keep our staff, families and community healthy and safe.