WILMINGTON — Teachers were prepared for new challenges as they welcomed students back to school this week.
The 2020-21 year for Wilmington City Schools has staff and students required to wear face coverings to prevent further spread of COVID-19 as they head back to school.
Wilmington High School social studies teacher Dillon Oney, starting his sixth year, said it is “refreshing” to see his students after “such a long absence.”
“Getting the chance to reconnect with former students and meet new ones is always the most exciting part of any school year,” said Oney.
He added it was great to see everyone working together to keep each other safe and healthy.
“I understood that the year was going to present new challenges, but just like every year, I was excited to get started,” he said.
While Oney feels excited about meeting a new group of students, he also feels nervous.
“With two young kids at home, I’m (more) worried about bringing something home,” said Oney.
To prep himself, he’s getting extra training done and is familiarizing himself with the new technology to help maintain a better connection.
Oney’s biggest concern is that his students will feel scared, overwhelmed, or confused.
As the year drew closer, Oney hopes that teachers, students and their parents remain patient with one another.
“This is new for all of us, and I’m sure there will be mistakes made. As long as we use them to learn and get better, it will all work out fine,” he said.
“I know that the Wilmington community will successfully navigate the confusion we face now by taking things seriously and working together,” said Oney.
Brandy Smith, a kindergarten teacher at Holmes Elementary, is starting her 16th year teaching and is excited to see students and staff back in the building despite the different guidelines and protocols.
“Students did a great job of accepting and respecting the new procedures such as mask-wearing and social distancing,” said Smith.
Smith has also had concerns with her three kids — high school freshman Addyson, fourth-grader Kella and preschooler Laikynn.
“As a teacher and as a parent, I was excited hearing that schools were reopening. School is such a vital part of every child’s success not only academically but also socially and emotionally” said Smith.
But she also had so many questions, uncertainties, and concerns with how this would look for her students at school and for her own kids at home.
“As a parent, each year I do not look forward to seeing our summer fun end, but as a teacher I always look forward to the start of the school year to meet my new students and their families and to be able to see my students from past years. This year those feelings still remain,” she said. “As we know from March, things can change so quickly.”
But Smith feels WCS has done a “great job” putting guidelines into practice.
“My hope for this year is that our WCS community continues to grow stronger through this as we continue to work together to create a safe and fun learning environment for our students,” she said.
A friend of Smith’s recently shared a Facebook post that stated, “Let’s give this school year the opportunity to be awesome. Don’t throw a label or judgement on it before it begins it may just surprise us in big, beautiful ways.”
“I think this statement and of itself says so much more about what I hope for this school year,” said Smith.
For Oney, he’s hoping they’re able to stay open the entire year.
“I also hope that students realize that we are all here to be their support system and their biggest fans,” he said.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574