School staff prepares buildings for start of classes next week

Laura Freeman
Kent Weeklies
Riverview Elementary School teachers prepare for students return to the classroom. Kim Nixon, 4th grade teacher, measures the distance between desks.

STOW – School begins next week and preparations include moving unneeded equipment into storage and assigning substitute teachers to a building to keep staff and students safe.

Superintendent Tom Bratten said they are working hard to open the schools and thanked the school board Aug. 24 for giving teachers and staff two extra weeks to prepare by moving the start of school to Sept. 1.

“Our people are putting in long hours under stressful situations and doing a wonderful job,” Bratten said.

To make more room in classrooms, desks and other items from nine buildings were moved into Macy’s at Stow-Kent Plaza, which closed earlier this year.

Riverview Elementary School teachers prepare for students return to the classroom. Katie Eckart’s kindergarten classroom tables spaced out.

The school district secured 30 out of 35 substitute teachers and assigned each to a particular building in the district to limit exposure, and each of them received professional development on Google classroom.

“Each building principal will meet with substitutes who are assigned to their building,” Bratten said. "This is how we’re going to operate.”

Substitute teachers will help students follow social distancing rules, he said. The district is ready to implement the district’s plan with PPE and plexiglass being delivered to the buildings.

“Teachers are getting creative with seating charts,” Bratten said. “Teachers are excited with amazing attitudes. We’ve never done this before, but we’re excited to be back.”

Riverview Elementary School teachers prepare for students return to the classroom. Katie Eckart, kindergarten teacher, puts tissue boxes on every table.

Students need teachers, Bratten said. Everyone is giving everything they’ve got without putting students at risk.

“We’re working through issues as we handle things we haven’t anticipated,” he said. “We’ve never done this before.”

The majority of bus letters went out, and buses have been running routes for the last two weeks to prevent problems, Bratten said.

“Everyone has worked hard to give us the best shot at succeeding this year,” he said.

Riverview Elementary School teachers prepare for students return to the classroom. Kim Nixon, 4th grade teacher, with the cart she will use to change classrooms. Teachers will move to different rooms, while the students will stay in the same room.

School board member Lisa Johnson-Bowers said she visited an elementary school and noticed the positive attitude of everyone in the district.

“Teachers get out of bed to make students successful,” Johnson-Bowers said. “They think about this non-stop. They’re concerned about the social emotional welfare of students.”

Bratten said that the school district wants to do the right thing to keep the buildings safe.

“Our goal is if something is going to happen, it needs to happen outside what we are doing,” Bratten said. “We want to do the right things inside and follow regulations. That’s what we can control.”

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com