NORFOLK, Va. — Veronique Valencia is back teaching inside her Northside Middle School classroom for the first time in nearly a year.
The sixth grade English teacher has 21 years of experience and but still felt nervous Thursday as she taught her students through a camera.
The desks in her class are still empty, but that’ll change soon.
“The ones that are coming back are pretty excited. They were like, ‘Oh, that’s your room,’ and I was like, ‘Yes.’”
Norfolk Public Schools is preparing for the return to in-person learning for the first time since the pandemic. In less than two weeks, Pre-K through fifth graders who opted to come back to class will begin hybrid learning. Most students will be in school twice a week.
“Seeing their faces, without a doubt, I cannot wait to see the kids coming back... yes, absolutely, that’s the most exciting thing for me,” said Valencia.
Things will definitely be different. For starters, the cafeteria looks more like a classroom, with assigned desks instead of table seating to help with contact tracing.
Social distancing reminders are posted all through the hallway, and arrows on the floor direct foot traffic to maximize learning and minimize risk.
“Some students benefit from a traditional model, and so having that teacher present with them to minimize the distractions or the comforts of home will help them focus and finish tasks,” said Northside Middle School Principal Letisha Lawrence.
Ms. Valencia is eager to help her Northside Stars shine a little brighter during these challenging times, and getting back in class is just the first step.
“I’m excited for fall. Hopefully everybody will be back. That’s my hope.”