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Polo, Forreston begin classes amid COVID-19

‘It was all worth it to see them walk in that door’

Two Polo High School students enter the high school on Tuesday. School resumed for Polo School District students last week.
Two Polo High School students enter the high school on Tuesday. School resumed for Polo School District students last week.

At Polo’s Centennial Elementary School, parents usually stay with their children for a time and help unpack their bags on the first day of school.

That couldn’t happen this year.

The Polo School District returned to in-person school for the fall on Aug. 20. Changes during the COVID-19 pandemic included masking, social distancing and symptom screening. There are no visitors allowed to the school.

“Parents usually stay longer with their little ones, but this year everyone was good about moving along so we didn’t have too many people,” Polo Superintendent Kelly Mandrell said.

Mandrell said the district’s first day went “very well” and her district couldn’t have asked for a better first day.

Twenty one percent of Polo families chose remote learning to start the semester in a system that has kids “Zoom” into in-person classes at the school.

“It was one of those things, we’re in the business of educating children,” Mandrell said. “Yes, it’s difficult. But we can see them and make a difference in their lives. I can’t thank my staff enough for all the extra work and help.”

Polo’s first day was a half day. The district’s first full day was on Aug. 21. Mandrell’s chief concern after two days was communicating with remote learners and their families and making sure everything is good at home.

The district did have one COVID-19 related issue. A teacher at the high school had a potential exposure and taught from home on the first day.

“The potential exposure wasn’t in one of our buildings,” Mandrell said. “They got a negative test before coming in to teach today.”

Forreston

The Forrestville Valley School District had its first day on Aug. 19.

Superintendent Sheri Smith said the first day went better than expected operationally. There were no issues with students wearing masks and symptom screening at the door took shorter than expected.

The one issue Smith cited was getting remote learners connected and logged in during the mornings. That took longer than expected, she said. Smith hopes those issues will be remedied by the end of week two. Fifteen percent of Forreston learners will do it online to start the semester.

Smith said that there was an overwhelming happiness among staff on the morning of the first day.

“It’s been a long process,” Smith said. “We started planning in June. It’s been a bit emotional. All we worked for, finally they’re here. It was all worth it to see them walk in that door.”

Forrestville Valley’s elementary schools have one done a couple full Zooms with students so far. Most of the first week was reviewing rules and new procedures. Elementary kids in the district have had devices before, just not at home.

Smith said students have adapted so far to masking and social distancing in person. For parents in the district, like herself, it could take some getting used to.

“For my student, he’s excited to see his friends,” Smith said. “For us, There’s nervousness. The parameters in place, it’s getting over those and then it’s school as normal.”

Forrestville Valley has not had any potential exposures or positive COVID-19 tests thus far, Smith said.

“We just had a great week and want to continue it,” Smith said.

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