Williamston Community Schools are taking the next step — bringing back sports — in transitioning students back to in-person learning after meeting virtually for months due to the COVID-19.
Basketball, competitive cheer and wrestling were added to the list of competing sports in mid-February. Athletes are required to wear masks and social distance as much as possible.
Prior to this decision, swimming was allowed to compete, but the other sports were only allowed to have non-contact practices. During this time, they focused on physical conditioning and learning various techniques.
“We’ve dealt with changing schedules, figuring out new policies and protocols … and making sure everything we are doing allows for a safe environment for our athletics to happen; practices, games, and logistically how things work,” said Athletic Director Paige Paulsen.
Administration’s starting point
The schools implemented a hybrid system where students attend a combination of online and in-person classes. The elementary schools started going into the building in November, and the middle school and high school began in-person classes in January.
“It’s been a real balancing act between trying to find ways to support students as much as we can given the constraints that COVID-19 has placed on us,” said Superintendent Adam Spina. “It’s not getting any easier, but we are keeping a positive outlook on things and trying to do what is best for kids.”
Administrators are specifically focusing on getting elementary students back to in-person learning full time because of what experts say about the social and emotional pieces that come with elementary learning. Some studies have shown how isolation from other people can be just as harmful to the human body as smoking or drinking alcohol.
Spina said that while athletics and some clubs in the middle school and high school have been able to meet either remotely or in-person for the entire year, the younger students have not had their usual daytime activities like music lessons or dance that give them social interactions with each other.
Differences in learning
The hybrid system uses multiple monitors, cameras and microphone systems to include all students in-class and at home in real-time synchronization for students.
“Some families feel more secure with their child learning from home and others want their child in school every minute of the day,” Spina said. “We are trying to accommodate both ends of the spectrum to the best of our ability.”
Julia Brown is a mother of four children each of whom attend one of the Williamston schools.
Brown said the online learning experience has been different for each of her children; some of whom excel with having a more flexible schedule while others struggle with not being able to interact with their friends regularly.