CARTHAGE, Texas (KLTV) - Across East Texas, teachers and administrators at more than 15 school districts are preparing for the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 12.
One of the districts preparing to welcome students back is Carthage ISD, which expects about 90% of their students to return to the classroom.
Evelyn Wedgeworth teaches first grade at Carthage Primary School and has prepared for 33 ‘first days’ in her teaching career. Her 34th ‘first day’ promises to be different than the others.
“I’ll be wearing a mask, so that’ll be different,” Wedgeworth said.
And for those who teach younger students, like Wedgeworth’s first graders, a mask over the teacher’s mouth could make things difficult when teaching subjects like reading.
”It’s really important teaching beginning readers that they know how to make their mouth make the sound,” Wedgeworth said.
Teachers are solving this problem by trading their masks for face shields during certain activities.
“I’ll use this in reading groups and small groups,” Wedgworth said. “I also used this during meet the teacher, because I wanted the students to see me.”
In Texas, children under the age of 10 aren’t required to wear a mask. The choice is made by the parents, much like the decision to send kids to school or opt for virtual learning.
“We understand that at any time, 100 percent of our students could be learning at home,” said John Wink, Carthage ISD Superintendent.
Wink said lesson plans were designed around virtual learning, with face-to-face instruction being the enhancement.
”We wanted to make sure that teachers only had to create one plan that was versatile,” Wink said.
At Carthage Primary, one teacher has been designated as the virtual teacher for first grade, while another teacher will lead virtual learning for kindergarteners.
On campus, safeguards for students include taking the spigots off the water fountains and providing plenty of hand sanitizer.
An undeniably different looking start to a school year that is full of uncertainty, but also hope.
”Keep up the dialogue, keep up the conversation, because we’re all in this together and we’re all going to be successful and conquer this together, if we stay together,” Wink said.