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Teachers tackle education during troublesome times

By: Atlanta Northcutt -- Southern Standard

WCHS teacher Jacob Dunn instructs his History of Modern Music class


Just as students are adjusting to the “new normal” at school, teachers, principals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and all staff members are also having to navigate this new kind of schooling.

The 2020-2021 school year began Aug. 12 and is officially in full swing. Due to COVID safety precautions, this year has experienced a180 degree flip from the norm.

The Warren County School System employees hundreds. The abundance of precautions being taken are not just for the students, but for the employees too. A deadly pandemic has caused the most complicated and unpredictable year than any previous one in history.

While the school system continues to focus on protecting students and staff members, teachers are also taking precautions to protect themselves and their classrooms and fight the spread of COVID.

School staff members are heroes on the front lines interacting, supporting and helping students safely make their way through the halls, classrooms and athletic areas.

Warren County High School teacher Jacob Dunn is just one member of this group of hundreds of school heroes. Dunn teaches U.S. History and Social Studies, as well as History of Modern Music to juniors and seniors.

Dunn has been teaching for 13 years. He said he’s never seen anything like it.

“Everything has gone as smoothly as we can possibly help,” says Dunn. “There haven’t been any hiccups I know of that have possibly hindered us and the use of the hybrid schedule,” says Dunn. “There may have been some issues, but to my knowledge, I don’t personally know of any.”

Dunn is married and has two children. One is in preschool, and the other is in 5th grade. He doesn't worry he’ll be infected at work and bring the virus home. He also believes his children will be safe while attending their own schools.

“The way our school system has handled the hybrid schedule we’re now using and has taken all safety precautions necessary, I feel very safe and am not worried about bringing this home to my kids or them catching it at their own schools since the school system has put in such a great deal of effort to ensure everyone’s safety,” says Dunn.

The hybrid schedule is one Dunn supports considering the teachers at the high school weren’t able to personally interact with their students or provide as much aid to those needing help as COVID forced schools to close at the end of the 2020 school year.

“The hybrid schedule has absolutely worked better than solely learning online,” says Dunn, regarding the hybrid schedule. “My belief is a face-to-face interaction with a teacher is wonderful for our children, but one of the most important parts is fulfilling their social and emotional needs they receive by being with their friends. For them to be around other people and adults who care about them is so much better of an option than all-online instruction.”

With the hybrid schedule, there are two groups of students, A group and B group, with each group either physically attending school or solely working online rotating every other day.

“Since we have such a large population of students at the high school, there was no way to feasibly practice safe social distance,” says Dunn. “The hybrid schedule gives us the ability to have one-on-one interactions and experiences with all of our students, as well as keeping everyone safe by social distancing and following the mask mandate.”

“The mask mandate is a huge help, and all of the students are doing a great job following the requests our school board has asked of them,” adds Dunn.

The “new normal” includes temperature checks, wearing masks or face coverings, social distancing, ensuring students only eat in the cafeteria, keeping the freshmen separated from the general population. The freshmen go to and from classes at designated times differing from the other grades, allowing less individuals to walk too closely in the halls.

“We are living in an ever-changing world right now, and I’ve had to adapt with patience and grace,” says Dunn.

Milestone events for the senior class of 2020, such as graduation, prom, homecoming and other celebrations for seniors were either drastically changed or cancelled altogether, as well as the students being unable to see or visit with friends as school and other locations began closing. It was a hard hit for many of the seniors.

The number of individuals reporting feelings of depression and anxiety have sky-rocketed during COVID, and teenagers are being hit with these emotions too. The rise of young people feeling isolated, lonely, worried and other negative emotions can be attributed to the pandemic. Teachers, principals and counselors are working with students in a number of ways to combat these struggles.

“I think teachers wear many different hats, and I believe we become counselors of some sort while talking to the kids every single day,” says Dunn. “That’s something we should continue to thrive on, especially during this pandemic we’re in. I’m here for these students and to help them with whatever they need, and the rest of our staff is, as well.”

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