Episode 11: Back to School (Take 2)

Back2SchoolArt

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About the episode

Schools welcomed back students with cheerful signage and surprises. Photo: Hingham Public Schools.

Thank you for listening to the Hingham ‘Cast. This past year has been hard in a thousand different ways. How our kids have suffered and risen to the occasion time and time again is inspiring. I have griped and groaned, cheered and screamed at the frustrations of remote learning, the loss of connection with my kids’ teachers and classmates and the timeframe to get back to school. I have also sat in awe of their teachers and school staff juggling their own families, their health and fears while trying to shepard our kids through a pandemic that had us all by the throats.

In this episode, I talk with my 9-year-old daughter Lucy to hear what it was like to go back to school after so many months remote and hybrid. I also sit down with Tony Keady, Principal of East Elementary School, on bringing the kids back not only physically, but emotionally and what their focus will be in the months ahead and as they prepare for the next school year. 

Lucy came bounding up the porch steps today. When I asked her how her “first” day of school was, she was breathless. “Awesome,” she said. I asked her about the gym that before now had been the crowded host to all-school meetings, concerts, plays and special visitors. Wasn’t it weird, I asked, to have it converted to a lunchroom? Wasn’t it lonely to sit at your own little desk and eat without all the social silliness of her typical elementary school lunchtime. No, she said firmly. “I would give up all school meetings and guest speakers and concerts just to have my class back together after what we’ve gone through.” I asked what she hopes for, what she wants to get back and she wants what we all want, some sliver of the normalcy that was ours not so very long ago. 

Desks have gone from six feet apart to three feet apart, in keeping with CDC guidelines for schools. photo: Hingham Public Schools

Tony Keady, the principal at Lucy’s school understands. “A school is a building,” he said. “It doesn’t become a school until you fill it with kids. And so today really,  it’s that same feeling of now it’s back to where it should be.” We talk about the work ahead to make the kids whole. “Hingham has invested quite a bit of, of resources and time into our social/emotional programming. From implementing the toolbox program to responsive classroom, we’ve got a number of things in place. So social/emotional comes almost near the top because that’s the only way you’re going to really make true academic progress in any environment, whether it’s Covid or non-Covid. You have to really be in a place ready to learn, ready to take risks, to move forward. So, to us, social/emotional is one of the key foundations for any kid to learn.”

Lucy Donnelly as she heads off to her “first” day of school Monday morning.
Kids have assigned, distanced desks to eat their lunch. This makes it easier for any needed contact tracing. Photo: Hingham Public Schools.

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