By all accounts, a return to in-person schooling has been going well for the Moniteau County R-1 School District.
Summer school started July 6, and since then, representatives with California's schools said they couldn't be happier with how things are shaking out.
"Everybody from students to teachers to parents, everybody's been exuberant about being back in school," California Elementary School principal Gary Baker said. "It's been fabulous for them. I don't really think you can put it into words how excited we all were to be back in the building and being able to do things and get back into what us as adults love to do and the kids being around the teachers and around their peers just getting that normalcy has been phenomenal. The kids have been working hard, the teachers have been working hard so it's been really good."
Baker said California Elementary has been able to maintain its teacher-student ratio at about 10 students per teacher. There was a heavier student enrollment the first two weeks, which he said was expected, due to parents wanting to spend more time with their children before the regular school year begins. In total, there were about 400 students enrolled in this year's summer school program, with about 325 at the elementary, less than 30 at the middle school and around 90 at the high school. There were never more than 250 students on-site at one time to ensure safety for students and faculty members.
"That has worked out really well for us to have half of the students here at a time and be able to provide some social distancing opportunities," superintendent Dwight Sanders said. "We feel like our students have been able to catch up on some things they missed with our shut down, so it's sort of been beneficial. And our teachers have really enjoyed it, it's been lower stress I think because they had a long break in-between the regular school year and the summer school year. They felt rejuvenated and they've enjoyed the summer session, as well."
Though this has been a joyful time for the students to see their friends, teachers and get back into the swing of things, it's also been a time for the district to do a trial run of what school could look like in case the pandemic worsens. Sanders said the district's strategy for summer school may be indicative of a plan to run with in case every day in-person schooling becomes impossible.
"I think we saw what it might look like if we had to go to an every other day schedule or an alternating hybrid between in-seat time and virtual time, and we hope we don't ever have to implement that but if we do, we kind of worked our way through that process a little bit," Sanders said. "I think from a district perspective that's a transition we can make without difficulty, but we recognize what a challenge that presents to the parents with working so we certainly don't want to have to do that. But this summer school session has allowed us to run a trial run with it, and it's worked out pretty well."
Baker said California's educators are ready for the regular school year to begin and can't wait to have their students back in the building practicing age-appropriate social distancing and ensuring the safety of everyone.
"We come to a close on Friday and then we will take the next week and completely disinfect our building and get everybody back in the swing of things so we're ready when (Aug. 24) rolls around," Baker said. "The elementary kids are responding age appropriately. I think the biggest thing is that on an hourly basis now, we are doing a hand sanitizing, hand-washing and ensuring we're getting that part done, but honestly, they aren't going to social distance as we would as adults because that's not age appropriate. We had smaller class sizes to kind of help with that a little bit, but the second they saw a friend for the first time in a long time, a bulldozer wasn't going to stop them from going to get a hug. They're just that excited to see their friends. So it's just been a blessing to be back under our roof and get back into our educational realm and do what we do."