TAHS 8th-graders back on campus

Michele Hawkinson and Hilary Sanders serve up one of the last meals to eighth-graders at the VMC last week. The class moved back to the high school campus this week. Photo / Per Peterson

Displaced students welcomed back to high school after 5-plus months at  Veterans’ Memorial Center

By Per Peterson

How do you go “back to school” when you’ve been in school for months already?

Be an eighth-grader at Tracy Area High School.

For the first time this school year, 60-some TAHS eighth-graders were back in the high school Monday after five-plus months in the Veterans Memorial Center. The students had been displaced to the VMC because of the pandemic.

History teacher Alex Greenway said putting kids in a different learning environment has been difficult, but the students adapted and did the best they could.

“The kids have done a really good job with it, certainly better than I thought they would,” Greenway said.

Greenway said the students’ focus has been good all year, despite the fact that they weren’t matriculating in a traditional school setting. For the teachers, the challenges have been many.

“Just logistically, the systems that you have in place for printing and having things on your desk and always being (at the VMC) — keeping your day-to-day flowing as a teacher was probably the toughest part,” he said. “It was different. Having to be in two different places with all of your stuff … remembering a charging cord for your computer. There was one day when I forgot map tests and I had to go get them.”

Because the District No. 2904 School Board at its January meeting approved last Friday as a staff development day, Thursday was the students’ last day at the VMC. TAHS Supt. Chad Anderson said he is excited to have the students back together under one roof.

“I appreciate all the flexibility and sacrifices from students, staff, parents, and city employees,” said Anderson. “I would like to send a special thanks to City Administrator Erik Hansen and the City Council for allowing us to utilize the VMC for our kids. Tracy is so fortunate to have such a wonderful facility that can be used by the city, school, and community.”

TAHS Principal Kathy Vondracek said getting the students back in the high school has many positives.

“We have our support services at the high school,” she said. “We’ve been bringing support services (to the VMC), but at the school we can help kids more immediately.”

The eighth-graders were moved to the VMC because they don’t share electives with upperclassmen. Seventh-graders were moved to the wrestling room at the high school and are a two-section class; the eighth-graders are a three-section class.

“It simply came down to the number of classrooms and space for them,” Vondracek said.

At the most recent school board meeting, several board members expressed their desire to move the kids back to the high school, according to Anderson. He said the teacher work day would be an ideal time to make the move “utilizing our custodial staff and teachers to prepare for the transition.”

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