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As RSS prepares to dismiss, teachers adjust, too

SALISBURY – The original plan was for Rowan-Salisbury Schools to dismiss kids early on May 21 and hold graduation ceremonies for high school students on May 22.

Instead of merrily screaming kids being bused off into the summer and proud graduates looking to the future as they say goodbye to grade school, this year there is nothing happening at the empty schools.

“This year, our classrooms look just like they looked the day they left school,” said RSS Superintendent Lynn Moody.

Moody said this time of year the district would be looking at closing up buildings for the summer, collecting supplies, uniforms, textbooks and devices. Teachers would be getting their classrooms ready for next year.

“Teachers are anxious to actually get back inside those classrooms,” Moody said, adding the district will arrange to have only a few teachers in each school at once.

Just like seniors leaving high school this year, Gail McCarty, a fifth-grade teacher at Mt. Ulla Elementary School said, “I feel that we’ve not had the closure we normally have.”

McCarty said it was especially difficult to unexpectedly say goodbye to her students more than two months ago because they will be moving on to middle school and she will not have a chance to see them at the school next year. She added the experience has made her realize how important person-to-person contact is.

McCarty said teachers were still hoping public schools would have a chance to reopen before the end of the year and were disappointed when Gov. Roy Cooper made the announcement they would be remain closed.

Moody said the district is looking toward planning for the summer and fall. Summer programs will all be adapted for elearning, and the district is in the early stages of analyzing how it will return to normal in the fall, or if it will have to close again due to a resurgence of COVID-19.

The district beginning to tackle the question of how it will handle students who were left in very different places depending on how they adapted to elearning.

This year students, except for those who are graduating or leaving the district, will keep the devices issued to them over the summer so they can stay in touch and participate in summer learning. That means the district will keep some staff responding to help requests for the summer as well.

Teri Mills, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at China Grove Middle School, said the school this year is missing out on celebrations like field day and honoring eighth graders who are moving on to high school.

Despite the changes, Mills pointed out how the school has tried to fill in the gaps. On Thursday, the school will stream a video, more than an hour long, which will recognize eighth graders. There will be photos of each student, awards and positive comments from student services about how those staff connected with different students.

Mills also plans to mail postcards to her students after school lets out to let them know they have not been forgotten.

“It definitely feels different,” Mills said. “This is the first time in a long time in late May I am already looking forward to August. It’s hard when you don’t have a proper sendoff.”

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