Brockway Returns to In-Person School

BROCKWAY, Pa. (EYT) – The Brockway Area School District finished its first two days of school last week.

(Pictured: Brockway staff members)

The school spent the summer updating procedures and adding new features to try to promote social distancing and best practices during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Brockway split its lunches to decrease the number of students in the cafeteria. It installed water-bottle filling stations instead of water fountains, and then purchased water bottles for each student. Hallways were divided with red lines and arrows to better direct traffic. Shop teachers Kyle Norman, Matt Holt, and Robert Bateman built dividers for the school, separating close seating in classrooms and the cafeteria.

The school also staggered class start and dismissal times to ease congestion in the hallway. If students come to school before the start time, there are designated areas for them to wait. With the grades spread out in the morning, at lunch, between classes, and at dismissal, the district is trying its best to keep the numbers of people in groups as low as possible.

A Brockway classroom with the new dividers installed.

Staff members watching the start of the day also have thermometers to check temperatures, and parents are supposed to keep an eye on their children for symptoms before sending them to school. Teachers are also checking their own temperatures before coming to work.

The district took another step in buying more Chromebooks and means of internet access for its students. Some families opted to take the district’s hybrid instruction option, which allowed some classes to be taken in-person and others online. Still other parents chose to have their children complete work completely online.

However, the precautions taken for in-person instruction have been successful, according to students.

“I’d say they’re doing pretty well at keeping too many kids from being in the hallway,” Dakota Malmgren, a senior, said. “There’s not a lot of hallway congestion like there normally is.”

Students are also wearing masks all day. At first, students said the masks were uncomfortable, but they added that they are getting used to wearing them.

“I didn’t think the first day went badly,” fellow senior Cassidy Grieneisen said. “The masks add to the sweating; but most people are tying.”

Grieneisen added that she hopes that the first day leads to a school year that ends closer to a normal year than 2020 did.

“I’m happy to be back to school,” she said. “I hope we get to have a real prom this year, though.”

The main office at Brockway High School.

That hope for a return to normal is shared by Superintendent Jeff Vizza. Vizza said in a school board meeting that he wants to have 180 in-person school days. His message to his staff focused on overcoming difficulties.

“We are embarking on one of the most unprecedented years we’ve ever seen,” he said. “I speak a lot about perseverance. Perseverance is something you’re not necessarily born with, but over time, it becomes a part of you.”

Vizza also purchased t-shirts for the staff with puzzle pieces on the back. Those pieces represent all stakeholders in the district and how, together, they can make the 2020-2021 school year successful.

Like other school districts in Pennsylvania, Brockway is keeping an eye on COVID-19 cases and instructions from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

However, the conversations among the students in the high school seemed to express excitement about being back to school.

“We’ve been out since March,” senior Emily Calliari said. “I’m just happy to be here.”

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