Vicksburg Catholic, Vicksburg Warren welcome back thousands of students
It was not the normal first day of school most have come to expect.
Children this year arrived at school welcomed by teachers and school personnel still smiling, but those smiles were covered by face masks. Instead of high fives and hugs, there was the occasional elbow bump and a quick temperature check with a touch-less thermometer.
Monday marked the first day of school for children attending Vicksburg Catholic Schools and those attending schools within the Vicksburg Warren School District. It also marked the first test of many of the policies and procedures each school organization put in place to protect all those working and attending schools from the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“I was able to visit all 16 of them on the first day of school and it was clear that their planning paid off. I was moved to see how innovative our schools’ staff members have been to ensure the safe opening of school and at the same time communicate to all of our students that they are important and cared for at the VWSD,” Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy said.
For those students attending St. Francis Xavier and St. Aloysius High School, along with those in the public schools, Monday’s return to the classroom marked 164 days since in-person instruction was suspended due the pandemic.
“We are so happy to have students back in the building and all the energy and excitement that comes with that,” St. Aloysius principal Karla McHan said. “It has been nice having students come back in smaller numbers as we phase-in. This is allowing us to spend more time fine-tuning our procedures. We are looking forward to Thursday when we have our whole student body together again.”
Vicksburg Catholic Schools welcomed back students in a phased-in approach over the first few days, with one-third of the students returning Monday, another third coming Tuesday and the remaining students coming Wednesday. The entire student body for both schools will be together beginning Thursday.
For the public schools, information was not yet available as to the overall number of students who returned to in-person learning in the classroom and those participating in online distance learning. The district expected to have better counts of each category by the end of the week. Before school started, school officials had expected just over half of the students in the district to remain doing distance learning from home.
“Although it was not our typical first day of school, it was a great day nonetheless. Having chosen to phase in our students alphabetically it has enabled us to start slow,” Kristi Smith, director of development and alumni affairs, said. “After being out for so long, this was beneficial for our students as well as our teachers to get used to new procedures and a new environment. Despite the uncertainty, we have all felt leading up to this, Monday was a success and we look forward to welcoming the rest of our Vicksburg Catholic School Family in the coming days.”
Shealy said the coming days will continue to test the social distancing and protective measures put in place as students and teachers become more familiar.
“We will surely have to adjust as we continue through this year, but as far as first days go, this one went extremely smoothly and I am looking forward to a great year,” Shealy said Monday. “I know I am speaking for teachers and administrators across the district — we were so excited to see students again after such a long break. I am proud of the work our schools did on Monday.”
Terri Cowart Frazier contributed to this report.