A new learning curve

TRACY AREA HIGH SCHOOL juniors Lauren Zick (left) and Annaka Hook make their way to class last Thursday morning. Zick and Hook, like all other students, must wear masks during the school day. Photos / Per Peterson

Tracy Area Public Schools welcomes students — along with unique rules

By Per Peterson

There has never been a first week of school like this one was.

Tracy area students last Tuesday went back to school for the first time since March 11. That was the last day before spring break, and before anyone could blink, the 2019-20 school year was cancelled shortly thereafter because of the COVID-19 pandemic (distance learning eventually replaced traditional schooling on March 23 and lasted throughout what was left of that school year).

“The teachers worked really hard at putting all the measures into place,” said Tracy Area High School Principal Kathy Vondracek. “The kids have been good about the masks; they’ve really been wonderful. I have to put a shout-out for our busing and our cooks, they’ve all done just a great job.”

For the first time, the high school has implemented a block schedule. Under the hybrid model of learning, teachers can’t get through half of one period each day, Vondracek said. A class right now in the regular block scheduling is 90 minutes long; block scheduling requires students to use the halls less every day, which plays into the school’s plan of discouraging locker use, since lockers are so close together. Even though everyone in the schools must wear masks, there is still the 6-foot social distancing guidelines to which the schools want to adhere. Having fewer “passing times” in the hallways cuts down on interaction.

“We want kids to get to their locker first thing in the morning, then if you can don’t go back until noon time,” Vondracek said. “If we went to truly try to keep kids apart … that locker time is social time. It’s not that we want to take social time away, but we don’t want the kids so close together.”

Vondracek is confident the students will adapt to all the changes, whether it be hallway time, class time or lunch time. She knows the staff, too, must be prepared for any changes that might be thrown at them.

Ultimately, no matter how much added work has been thrust upon school staff, everyone is glad school is once again in session.

“We just needed to get here, and get the kids in the building,” said Tracy Area High School Supt. Chad Anderson. “It’s almost easier to make adjustments now that we’re here, instead of just continuing to plan for the unknown. Now, we know what’s going on and we can adapt and change to different things that arise.”

Over at Tracy Area Elementary, things went relatively smoothly the first week of school. Principal Michael Munson said the students, even the youngest ones, have adjusted well to wearing a protective mask (all students from transitional kindergarten to the sixth grade are required to wear a mask).

“It’s been going excellent; the kids have done a great job with them,” Munson said. “They’ve been very good about keeping them over their nose and mouth.”

The kids can take their masks off during lunch and recess, but Munson said some of the kids have adapted so well to the masks that they leave them on even when outside.

“They’re very comfortable with it,” he said. “Kids are resilient. They just get used to their new norm and move on.”

Parents are not allowed to enter the building, and have adjusted to meeting school staff at the door when they need to pick up or drop off a child, or are there for any other reason.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.