Classes begin for public schools in Eastern North Carolina as teachers, students return to in-person learning after pandemic

School Watch

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It is back-to-school season for many districts in Eastern North Carolina as public schools began classes all over the area.

(Kayla Schmidt, WNCT video)

Students and teachers are back in the classroom full time after the coronavirus pandemic wrecked plans and threw the last school year into a frenzy. In Onslow County, teachers at Coastal Elementary were gearing up for a year back with their students. They also got to teach and learn in a brand new building.

“This year I can take my time … we have them all from day one, we can learn all of our routines and expectations we can get to know each other,” said Cindy Pataane, a second-grade teacher at the school.

The new school was designed to relieve overcrowding at Dixon Elementary. About half of the students were moved to the new school along with giving teachers an option to transfer.

Lisa Godwin is one of those teachers. She taught kindergarten students at Dixon and is now at Coastal Elementary. She said due to the emotional side of things, she is ready to have kids back in the classroom.

This is their first journey in education for many of them so they came in wide eyed and ready to roll today.

Lisa Godwin, Coastal Elementary Teacher

Onslow County public schools voted to make masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year. Teachers say it has been 50/50 in their classrooms.

Craven County Schools

(Claire Curry, WNCT video)

Jennifer Wagner, Craven County Schools’ director of public relations and communications, expressed excitement at how well things went there on the first day.

She said the school system had a great first day of school. Educators were very excited to welcome back their students for another year, especially after everything that happened last year.

“We are extremely grateful for all that our educators do,” Wagner said. “It seems each year we’re asking more and more of them, and they always rise to the occasion.”

Students and staff are required to wear masks for all grades. Wagner said this year, they are not enforcing their symptom checks each morning, such as checking students’ temperatures. Students should stay home if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Wagner said their focus is keeping students safe and to continue in-person learning.

Lenoir County Public Schools

(Claire Curry, WNCT video)

Brent Williams, the superintendent for Lenoir County Public Schools said overall, it was an outstanding opening day.

He went to visit all the schools in the county on Monday and said it’s really rewarding to be able to see all the students, teachers, principals and others all engaged in learning, especially after the past school year.

“After this long pandemic and recovery period, to see kids, all of our kids back today and engaged in learning, it’s really a great thing,” Williams said.

Williams said every school he’s visited he’s seen busy hallways, kids eager to learn and teachers willing to instruct them. He also said their schools have all had their COVID-19 protocols in place and students and staff are following accordingly. Lenoir County Public Schools requires masks for students and staff.

Williams praised the teachers throughout their school system and for their work in being able to make this school year possible.

Drivers should practice school bus safety measures

With school buses back on the roads, it’s important for drivers to practice good measures when on the roads where buses are picking up or dropping off children.

Kayla Schmidt spoke with Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck, who warns drivers to pay attention in school zones during the morning and afternoon hours.

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