Students in the Troy School District are returning to the classroom, albeit slowly.
Dr. Richard Machesky, the superintendent for the Troy School District, said that while the majority of students are still learning remotely, students who require specialized instruction (i.e., children with specific learning/behavioral disabilities) have already been in school for some time.
As part of the phased-in approach, some elementary school students returned to school last week, while middle school students returned this week, and 9th-grade students will return to school starting next Monday.
Previously, all students in grades K-12 were learning virtually through programs such as Schoology and Zoom.
To each their own
With the return of students, special protocols are in place to ensure the health and well-being of both staff members and students across the district.
“Right now, the students who are working in seat … any materials that they have are their own,” said Machesky (This means that things like test booklets and pencils are not shared among classes anymore). “We are asking students to make sure they are maintaining their own materials. If it’s shared materials, like in a Kindergarten classroom (with toys and other things) … then those are taken out of circulation and sanitized.”
Enhanced countywide cooperation amongst local schools districts
Machesky also mentioned that other districts across Oakland County are trying to cooperate with each other and share mutual challenges and difficulties.
“We are meeting weekly and sometimes twice weekly,“ said Machesky. “We are sharing what we are doing. I just talk regularly with a number of superintendents around the Troy School District … Rochester, Birmingham and Walled Lake. They share some of the same challenges that we share because they are larger districts.
In addition to these weekly meetings, the Troy School District, along with other area districts, is meeting with the Oakland County Health Department to receive guidance and tips about dealing with the latest developments regarding COVID-19.
How elementary students are coping with the change
For young children, the sheer magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic can be hard to comprehend. Despite this, the principal of Morse Elementary in Troy, Stephanie Zendler, is impressed with how well the kids are doing regarding mask-wearing and being flexible with the ever-changing environment.
“Kids are really versatile,” said Zendler. “If you tell them what you need and why, they are getting it. They are naturally connected beings, so a few times we are like ‘no, you can’t hold hands with your friends at recess.’’’ They just want to be together.”
Zendler said each student within the classroom is required to sit one seat apart from anyone else and that before and after recess, children are washing their hands regularly. The social distancing aspect of instruction, however, has made recess quite difficult.
“We cohort the kids by class (during recess), so there is a big map of our property, and we have divided our property into nine separate zones,” said Zendler. “At lunch, we have sort of scheduled zones, so kids get to rotate. Only a couple of the zones have play equipment and something to climb or swing, so we try and rotate that every week.”
Zendler also said plastic frog props have been placed throughout the lunchroom, so that kids know where to stand when they are in the lunch line.
Troy and Troy Athens get ready for the return of students
For Troy High School principal Remo Roncone, the rapidly approaching return to face-to-face instruction in area high schools will be essential in helping incoming freshmen get adjusted to the new school environment.
“It is an important transition year (for the freshman) in any given year, let alone during a pandemic,” said Roncone. “We really wanted to focus our attention on that group of students.”
Roncone said he believes the district is well-suited for the return of students at a gradual pace since teachers and other staff members have been practicing and implementing various social-distancing strategies throughout the past several months.
The Troy School District encompasses approximately 13,000 students. By the end of the month, most of these students will be inside school buildings and receiving instruction for the first time in eight months.