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Dubuque schools staff say learning, health will be priorities as new school begins

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 10:26 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Decorating sidewalks and playgrounds is a tradition for the 5th graders at Bryant Elementary School.

”Right now we are drawing some, with chalk, as you can see is on the sidewalk, and we are just drawing what we think about school,” Sophie Miller-Smith, a 5th-grader at the school, said.

Few kids at Bryant Elementary are as excited to be back as Miller-Smith. She spent the last year and a half learning from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

”It feels amazing to finally see my friends once again,” Miller-Smith said. “I really missed one of my really best friends and neighbors. Even though we are neighbors, we could not really see each other because of COVID. I do not want to get her sick and I do not want to get myself sick.”

Principal Megan Richardson said the return to school is always an exciting time, but this year it has been special.

”Students could not wait to get back into the building, teachers could not wait to see students,” Richardson said. “We are also just excited for a full year of learning.”

But even with all the excitement, Richardson recognizes there is concern as elementary school students are still not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s why she said they are taking all necessary measures to keep people safe and healthy, including maximizing space for social distancing, going outside, and constant cleaning.

The Dubuque Community School District is also highly encouraging mask-wearing while at school. Because of Iowa law, staff cannot enforce mask-wearing, but superintendent Stan Rheingans said families should discuss whether mask-wearing makes sense for them.

“Have that family conversation, look at the guidelines that we have shared about things that they can do, masks and those sorts of things and make a conscious family decision about how to move forward,” Rheingans said.

Richardson called this new school year the year of rebuilding. She said through some funds, the district was able to get them a designated teacher to help students who may have fallen behind catch up either before or after school hours.

”We have had two years where, you know, some things have maybe been interrupted a little bit, so I am beyond excited and ready to have everyone here, all day, every day and for us to get to do our craft, which is teach kids,” Richardson said.

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