Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia students return to the classroom for the first time in five months

Keeping Schools Safe

BRISTOL, Tenn. & Va. (WJHL) — Students in the Tri-Cities are returning to the classroom for the first time in five months.

News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun visited schools in Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia to see how everyone is adjusting.

The key to this entire school year is flexibility. One thing for sure during these uncertain times is that students and teachers are excited to be back.

Learning at Virginia Middle School, in Bristol, Virginia looks a little different.

Virginia Middle School Principal Jason Matlock said, “The first couple of days it’s been some trial and error, but as each day passes, I think we’re getting more and more exact, and precise.”

Every room in the building is sanitized frequently. Everyone wears masks and desks are social distanced.

Classroom teachers are trying to offer mask breaks throughout the day, so they take them outside. They must social distance, but they can get some fresh air, Virginia Middle School teacher librarian, Jessica Buchanan said.

The school added line markings on the floor to denote which directions students and faculty should walk.

“If they’re traveling down the hallway, they need to be traveling on the right-hand side just like if they were driving, and the same way as they’re going upstairs – they need to be traveling on the right-hand side,” Matlock said.

A new feature for Bristol, Virginia Public Schools this year is an isolation room.

“If any student who is exhibiting any kind of symptoms after they’ve arrived at the school, the nurse will assess them there,” Matlock said.

The same goes for Fairmount Elementary in Bristol, Tennessee which started school, Monday.

“We have two separate clinics. We have a well clinic and then we have sick clinic or an isolation space,” Fairmount Elementary Principal Kelly Campbell said.

“Our students coming back on campus has definitely been a joy for us today,” Campbell said.

The main focus for the first day is explaining new procedures to the students.

“Walking down the hall, keeping distanced and walking down the hall, handwashing, assigned seats,” Fairmount teacher Lisa McClain said. “It’s different this year.”

McClain said she has had to re-do her teaching method due to COVID-19.

“Typically, we would utilize a lot of small group and think, pair share and just partnering up with each other,” she said.

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