Lockhart ISD elementary school principal reflects on first week
By Wesley Gardner
The first week of school for the Lockhart school district is officially in the books, though it was a first week quite unlike anything teachers and students have experienced before.
Due to restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19, district officials opted to have students learn from home for the first three weeks of school.
According to Clear Fork Elementary Principal Rebecca Leonard, adjusting to the new format has come with its ups and downs.
“Obviously, it was very different in a lot of ways, but then the same in so many,” said Leonard. “I started walking the halls like I do on every first day of school.
“When I pressed my ear against the door, if I would have closed my eyes, I would have sworn there were kids in the room. The teachers were still singing and dancing and getting to know you and all those things. That’s what I wanted.”
Leonard said that many of the teachers were afraid they wouldn’t be able to connect with their students like they would in a normal classroom setting but noted most of those fears were quickly washed away.
“In preparing [the teachers], we talked about all the ways that we could connect virtually with the kids – the things that we could ask them, the things that we could do,” said Leonard.
“We feel like that’s the celebration this week — that we connected with them literally with the technology. We did a lot of trouble shooting to get that going.”
According to Leonard, the typical day for students is a bit like last year, though more involved.
“Some misconception is the kids are sitting in front of these laptops all day long,” said Leonard. “They’ll have a meeting, then the teacher will go over the next task and make sure there aren’t questions.
“Then the kids will get off and do that and then they’ll have to meet back a little later on. The teachers are able to schedule small-group time or one-on-one time to provide that support for students and parents alike.”
Leonard said one major difference from last year is the fact that teachers are actually teaching from their own classrooms instead of teaching from home.
“They love being in their classroom,” said Leonard. “That’s their comfort place. Their resources are there. If you walk to down the hall, there’s student work hanging in the hallways, because they’re making copies and printing them out to hang them.”
Leonard said that while distance learning has presented some challenges, it’s actually benefited the school’s teachers overall.
“I had one of our teachers share that she’s loving this right now because she’s learned something new every day, and it’s not scary to learn something new right now more so than ever, because everyone’s learning,” said Leonard. “The playing field has leveled out.
“My first-year teachers are coming in strong because their able to share things with 25-year-plus veteran teachers, so it’s making everyone feel like it’s all hands on deck and everybody has something to contribute. We want it better for our kids in the fall than it was in the spring, but that meant learning new things ourselves.”
According to Leonard, about 50 percent of the student’s parents have opted to stick with distance learning when students are able to return to campus on Sept. 14. District Executive Director of Communications and Community Services Christina Courson said about 45 percent of the district’s students will remain learning from home, excluding the Lockhart Junior High School students who will not be allowed to return to campus until Oct. 19 when HVAC repairs are completed.
More than anything, Leonard said that she her staff are committed to providing students with the best experience they can, given the circumstances.
“We definitely have our roses and thorns, but we’re focusing on the positive and staying committed to what we’ve always want to do,” said Leonard. “The saying is ‘you grow wherever you’re planted,” and right now our kids are at home so we’re going to grow them at home.”