PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Back-to-school is taking on a whole new meaning this year. For most students at Saints Peter and Paul School in West Chester, it means in-person learning resumes on Tuesday. CBS3’s Jan Carabeo shows us how the school is prepared to keep students and teachers safe, and why the changes took all summer to get into place.
The classrooms at Saints Peter and Paul School haven’t hosted in-person learning since March.
“Friday, March 13. I’ll never forget that day,” Saints Peter and Paul School Principal Veronica Chandler said.
Chandler was a teacher then but on Tuesday, Sept. 1, now Principal Chandler will mark a different milestone: the return to class inside the elementary school’s West Chester building.
“A journey, I just call it a journey, because it has had many turns,” Chandler said.
Around every corner are new safety procedures and rules to keep students and staff safe amid a pandemic. The changes this year start before students even step foot on school property. By 7:20 a.m., their parents need to conduct a health check and fill out a digital form, then when they arrive to the front of the building, students will notice some staff doing random temperature checks.
“We’ve been in the building pretty much all throughout the summer,” Teacher Nancy Thompson said.
Thompson just finished remodeling her fifth-grade classroom. Moving every piece of unnecessary furniture out, in order to create socially distant workplaces for her students.
“The child would sit from here to the other desk, nose to nose. They’re about six feet apart now,” Thompson said.
Ms. Thompson will be extra protected. She will wheel around a three-by-six-foot safety shield when a child needs personal instruction.
“I feel very safe behind the Plexiglass,” Thompson said. “So, I can see their work, I can talk to them one-on-one.”
School leaders say around 95% of the student body will return to the classroom this week. But for those who don’t, there is still the virtual learning option.
“I’ll have this set up here so that when I am teaching here, he can see me, see everything that I am doing,” Thompson explains. “He raises his hand, I can call on him, I can see him right in front of the room. It’s perfect.”
Out in the hallway, social distancing signs, something that’s become a familiar sight everywhere.
“We want to remind them of the direction that they would be moving if they’re in the hallway and a reminder that they need to be socially distant six feet apart from each other,” Chandler said.
Hand sanitizer stations will be at fingertips reach, drinking fountains are closed, stalls in bathrooms will be limited and everyone will be required to wear a mask.
There is no hesitation at Saints Peter and Paul School.
“I’m very excited…I can’t wait for the first day of school,” Thompson said.
Orientation is on Tuesday and then full steam ahead on Wednesday.