In this episode of The Education Trust’s podcast, ExtraOrdinary Districts, Jennie Black, principal of Washington Elementary School in Junction City, Kansas, is joined by third grade teachers Jennifer Fallin and Shanae Hentzen to talk about schooling in a pandemic.

Junction City required parents to choose either remote learning or what they call “brick-and-mortar” attendance, and teachers specialize in one or the other. Fallin teaches the remote learners; Hentzen the in-person learners.

“There are quite a few routines we have had to put in place to minimize the spread,” Black says about preventing coronavirus infections. Students go to the bathroom on a regular schedule so they can wash their hands for 20 seconds; they grab sack lunches so they don’t breathe on the buffet line; they eat breakfast in their classrooms and play in designated playground areas so that they stay in their class bubble.

“I don’t know if any other organization out there has been turned upside down just to run,” Black says. “We’re just taking one day at a time and creating the processes that need to happen.”

“There are days when it is just exhausting,” says Hentzen. “But it is December and we’re still here.” She has found that because students are so eager to be in school they have no problems complying with the new routines. “I’ve learned a lot about how resilient third graders can be,” she says.

Fallin, who teaches the remote learners, said she thinks “Parents have a lot better understanding of where their children are.”

Black said that she was pleased to see that in the first statewide interim assessments taken by Washington Elementary students, students demonstrated that their math and reading had progressed. “We didn’t see the bottom drop out of the barrel. That was what my biggest worry was.”