Check back throughout the day for updates on the first day of hybrid learning in Frederick County. Parents, teachers, how's the day going for you? Email education reporter Katryna Perera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A senior makes her way back
Gov. Thomas Jefferson High School senior Mei Homman said it was strange having to social distance and not being able to really socialize with people.
It felt normal to walk in to the school, like coming back from winter break, but peculiar to see how few people there were, she said.
There were times Homman didn't know if a day like Tuesday would ever come before she graduated.
The thought had been “kind of heartbreaking at first,” but she had come to accept it.
“I thought I might never see TJ again,” she said.
-Ryan Marshall, 3:47 p.m.
Excitement ahead for Hilliard
Urbana Elementary School Principal Tracy Hilliard said she had the same sleepless night as she does before any normal first day of school.
“It’s been a day that we’ve all been waiting for. I was so excited this morning to see my first car riders roll in and then the buses, so it was great to have our Hawks in the building,” she said. “Our staff is excited as well, we were just happy to connect with our scholars face-to-face today for the first time since last March.”
The school has 665 enrolled students and 308 of them opted for the hybrid learning model. One of the biggest groups to opt in was kindergartners, said Hilliard. Out of the 84 enrolled kindergartners, 50 chose to come in for hybrid learning.
To help with the transition, kindergarten and pre-K families were offered tours of the buildings so students could get familiar with their new school and acclimated with their teacher and classroom.
Preparing for the hybrid model took the involvement of all staff members, Hilliard said, and this first week is focused on building relationships with students to make sure they are as comfortable being in the building as possible.
“This building is a new building, so it is something new for them. I just want to make sure they’re comfortable because they’re not going to learn unless they’re comfortable,” she said.
And for the students still at home, Hilliard said they should not worry about receiving anything less than a quality education.
“I truly believe that, or I would not say that. We have excellent teachers that have been doing a great job in the virtual environment and now that’s going to continue ... either way it’s a win for our scholars,” she said.
-Katryna Perera, 12:30 p.m.
Everything's new at Urbana Elementary
Abdul Mannan helped his daughter get out of the car at Urbana Elementary School this morning and then crouched down to take a selfie with her.
“Have a good day, listen to your teachers,” he said as she walked for the first time into her school building.
She was excited, he said, because it was her first official day of school as a kindergartner.
“She got up early, had her breakfast, was excited to get into the classroom. We watched all the videos last night on how everything is going to go, and she is excited to see her friends in class,” Mannan said.
For many students at Urbana Elementary, this was their first day walking into the building, which was torn down in 2018 and rebuilt from the ground up. Construction was completed and the new school opened in August 2020.
Nicole Ugolini, whose daughter is in second grade, said she was happy to send her kids back to school. Virtual learning was tough, she said.
“My daughter really doesn’t do well in virtual learning, she needs that in-person type of learning, and my son, he just started middle school this year so he was really itching to go back and I think they thrive better in the school building, so I told them let’s try it. If it’s not what you thought or you don’t like it, you can always go back to virtual,” she said.
For many parents who are working full-time from home, the hybrid model will provide at least some help in managing schedules and responsibilities.
Several parents who dropped their children off Tuesday morning seemed happy with the safety measures and protocols in places.
“I feel good. I have a lot of faith that everything is going to be OK, and I just pray for good health for everybody, and I'm just taking it one day at a time,” said Grisel Nunez, the parent of a first grader.
-Katryna Perera, 11:05 a.m.
'That same sense of energy' at TJ
Thousands of Frederick County Public Schools teachers, administrators and students returned to school buildings today for the first day of hybrid learning. It's the first time a significant portion of FCPS students have returned to the classroom since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March.
With hybrid, which sees different blocks of students rotating the days they attend in-person learning, roughly 25-35 percent of the student population will be in schools on any given day.
At her campus in Frederick city this morning, Tracey Kibler, principal at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, said Tuesday had “that same sense of energy" as a normal first day of school.
There's a different volume of students than a "normal" school day, Kibler said, but she got to greet each student as they came in because they came in one by one rather than in large groups as they would if entire student body was there.
Teacher Shane Craig said it didn't hit him until this weekend that they would actually be going back to school.
Craig said handling in-class and virtual will be a challenge for teachers, but it's exciting to be back in the building.
"I feel like this is why I'm a teacher,” Craig said.
-Ryan Marshall, Trevor Baratko, 10:04 a.m.