Editor's note: This story is part of the 2021 "Essential to Jamestown" special edition of The Jamestown Sun. The annual Progress Edition features stories on essential workers, agencies and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
When it came to education, the coronavirus pandemic affected a lot of things including recess, according to Pat Smith, principal at Roosevelt Elementary School in Jamestown.
"During recess, we only want them playing within their own grade level," she said, referring to one method to limit exposure if one of the students became ill. "... the students have adapted very well."
The current school year started with the elementary schools in the classroom five days each week. Jamestown Middle School and Jamestown High School started with a hybrid schedule with students in the classroom two days every week and being educated remotely three days per week.
The school updated its schedule to classroom education five days per week in the middle of January and is still operating on that schedule.
"The high school has done amazingly well," said Caroline Thompson, an instructional coach at Jamestown High School. "The students are learning and the teachers have responded well."
Thompson gives much of the credit to the teachers working together with other educators and the parents.
"(Teachers) logged more than 10,000 calls with parents this year," she said.
There are no statistics about communications between teachers and parents from prior to the pandemic but Thompson estimates this could be as much as 10 times the previous call traffic.
"The communication with the parents was most of the time positive," she said. "It really helped the students manage the shift in learning and becoming successful learners."
Rob Lech, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, said the district worked through last summer to develop a plan for this school year.
"We made plans because we understood the custodial responsibility the school has in the community," he said.
Formulating those plans included input from custodians and school lunch workers as well as teachers and administration.
"The rules for everybody have changed," Lech said. "We had to reflect that in the plan."
The initial schedule was a challenge for all teachers, he said.
Elementary staff has been doing this all year (in classroom education) but have had to implement safety precautions," Lech said. "Secondary teachers deserve credit for having to teach by face-to-face and virtually at the same time."
Lech would not speculate on which group of educators had the bigger challenge.
Smith said through the changes, students, staff and parents have adapted well and credits the students for taking the precautions of the pandemic to heart.
"They faithfully wear their masks," she said. "If they forget, they come right to the office to get one."
Students are allowed "mask breaks" from time to time as long as they are not in close contact with other students or school staff.
"It has taken a little adjustment by all of us," Smith said.
Lech said the pandemic has given educators some things to consider in the future.
"We've learned a lot about education," he said. "We'll take a hard look at what went well and what didn't."
One of the things that has worked well is the learning management system software the school introduced in the early days of the pandemic. The software was under consideration prior to the pandemic but was expedited when distance learning became necessary.
"It was planned but utilized faster than we thought," Lech said. "We know now what we can do with virtual learning."
Having a more normal education experience next school year looks promising but is still unknown.
"The trends have been positive," Lech said. "... the goal is a full schedule of sports and activities next year. Some pieces have to come together including the level of exposure in the community and the vaccines for that to happen."
Lech commended Central Valley Health District for making vaccinations available to all teachers who chose to be vaccinated and expanding vaccine availability to the students who are 16 and older who qualify.
"They don't get enough credit for what they have done," he said.
Thompson said settling into the new normal next school year would be good.
"Feeling safe again would be so awesome," she said.
Smith said it was likely the elementary schools would again have five-day-per-week in-class education next school year.
"I would like to have the students play together again too," she said.