Area elementary school reopens doors to students

Wednesday was the first day of school at Lemonweir Elementary in Tomah
Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 6:06 PM CDT
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TOMAH, Wis. (WEAU) -

“Honestly that feeling, that joy, that excitement of a first day back-- you really could feel that this morning,” said Nicki Pope, Lemonweir Elementary principal.

Students are back in the classroom at Lemonweir Elementary.

The Tomah school is one of the first in the area to reopen during the pandemic.

Wednesday marked the start of the 2020-21 academic year for the school which runs on a 45-15 schedule.

“Our calendar runs for 45 days starting in mid-July and then we have a 15 day intercession which parents can choose to send their kids if they would like,” explained Pope.

Twenty-seven families opted to stay in a virtual learning environment, leaving the school with just fewer than 300 in-person students.

Those students are only interacting with other kids in their class and no parents, visitors, or volunteers are allowed inside.

Wednesday brought out several emotions.

“Lots of anxiety and not just anxiety because of the whole COVID thing, I think its because we’re one of the first ones,” said Maria Klema, a Title I teacher for the school. “There’s no set rules and we’re trying to figure it out as we go.”

For teachers, it’s exciting to see their students in-person again and they say parents have been extra appreciative after becoming teachers themselves during online learning.

Changes made include using different entrances to keep students separate, eating lunch in classrooms and not utilizing playground equipment.

Masks and temperature checks are not required for students, but if one seems ill he or she will be sent to the nurse.

“If there is a student that is displaying any signs besides running a temperature, we will put them in a safe area, provide a mask for them at that time and contact their parent,” Pope said.

School officials say bathrooms are being cleaned more frequently and classrooms disinfected every night.

Many faculty members are also parents and say they feel safe bringing their kids to school.

“I have several staff members that have their own children in the building,” Pope added. “It’s definitely a home environment where we’re making sure that we’re taking their safety and precautions first and highest priority.”

The school says it plans to continue to learn and adapt to changes as the year plays out.

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