Preschool students return to campus with temperature checks and safety protocols

Preschool and kindergarten students walk to class with their masks all six feet apart. The preschool and kindergarten students returned to campus after their extended summer break. Photo by Associate Director of Communications Scot Allen.

Scot Allen

Preschool and kindergarten students walk to class with their masks all six feet apart. The preschool and kindergarten students returned to campus after their extended summer break. Photo by Associate Director of Communications Scot Allen.

Erin Goya, Staff Writer

The baby owls –  Mid-Pacific preschool and kindergarten students – were the first to return to campus this fall after a break of more than five months due to COVID-19. 

August 17 and 24 marked the first days that the baby owls returned to the Mid-Pacific campus, and students followed protocols such as social distancing masks and temperature checks.

Mid-Pacific did not offer virtual learning to preschool but gave the option to kindergarten, taking into consideration what is developmentally appropriate for the littlest owls, said Edna Hussey, elementary school principal. 

“Children who are as young as 3 or 4 years old, to require them to sit in front of a screen for any amount of time past 5-10 minutes is not appropriate,” said Edna Hussey, elementary school principal. 

As the preschool returned to campus, many social distancing protocols were put in place. Masks and face shields were required along with the six-feet apart expectation. 

“They follow directions regarding wearing face shields, and there really have been no problems. In the morning as they get out of their cars and take their temperatures, for preschool and kindergarten, they say goodbye to their parents and wait so we can take a group of students to their classrooms,” said Hussey. 

The biggest challenge is the lack of human connection. Hussey said it’s difficult for any school that has an educational philosophy to try and deliver instruction without compromising the underlying beliefs about how children learn. 

In the classroom, the children sit in between pieces of plexiglass and are taught within a much bigger space. In the preschool they meet in inquiry groups of 8-10 people. Everyone sits on the rug, socially distanced, said Hussey.  

“Distancing. Human beings, by nature, especially the young ones, like to be touching one another. That is just so common and so natural. Having to not touch one another and making sure they are separated from each other is a challenge,” said Hussey.

Sondra Leiggi sent her kindergarten daughter, Brooklyn Brandon,  back to school in person when it began. She said she and many other parents were concerned about the safety of their children.  But she said Mid-Pacific has done an amazing job communicating and being transparent regarding the planned interventions.

Leiggi said returning to school was important for her child’s social life. 

“She is so happy and she loves it,” said Leiggi, who works as a systems director of behavioral health at Queens Medical Center.   “She comes home happy and wants to talk about the day and wants to work hard for school.” 

Another parent, Meagan Yoneshige, said she really felt that the communication from Mid-Pacific was great. Her son, Curran, is also in kindergarten. 

Aug. 17 and 24 marked the first days that the baby owls returned to the Mid-Pacific campus, and students followed protocols such as social distancing masks and temperature checks. Photo by Associate Director of Communications Scot Allen.
(Scot Allen)

“When deciding to return to campus, it was a balance of safety and what fit our needs as a family and the learning environment that we felt would most benefit Curran,” said Yoneshige. 

She also said Curran was very excited to return to campus. Curran  said he enjoys activities such as PE, drawing and music and was very enthusiastic about washing his hands as he sang the song. 

Before, the preschool would meet as a whole group of 32 students, said Leslie Gleim , the preschool Pedagogista. However, this year was different.

“We broke the preschool into 3 groups that changed the dynamic of the projects, but we found that the small group dynamics caused them to build their own communities together,” said Gleim . 

Robynne Migita, a preschool teacher, said that it would be  hard for kids to enter a new environment and just say goodbye to their parents. 

“The main focus was to help the children feel comfortable returning to school because half of them weren’t able to come and visit campus,” said Migita. 

The first and second grade students have been doing virtual learning and the plans for their return to campus will look similar to the preschool and kindergarten. 

Due to physical distance, half of her class will be on one side and the other on the other side of the room as she teaches through the doorway, said Liane Angaran, first and second grade teacher. 

First grade through fifth grade accompanied the middle and high school as they started virtual learning on Aug. 17. Teachers said they have seen changes in some of their students behavior after switching over to virtual learning. Speaking more openly has become a more noticeable benefit for the more introverted students. 

“Some of the shyest children have now found a new voice, they feel comfortable talking and chiming in when they need to. The more talkative children have become quieter and have learned to not blurt into the conversation,” said Angaran. 

They follow directions regarding wearing face shields, and there really have been no problems.”

— Elementary Principal Edna Hussey

However, Angaran said there aren’t many opportunities virtually that allow the students to have those amazing “aha” discoveries. 

The rest of the Mid-Pacific community remains online with hopes to return on Oct.  5,  said President Paul Turnbull in his latest campus update. 

“One thing that we can learn from watching children is the attitude or the expectation that we value the presence of others in a space and that we can be together, respecting the guidelines that are in place everywhere,” said Hussey.