Hartselle students face ‘new normal’ as they return to classes
By Jennifer L. Williams
For the Enquirer
Hartselle City Schools entered a strange new world Monday morning with the start of classes for the 2020-21 school year.
After an abrupt halt to all classroom instruction and school activities in March, students, teachers and parents had to adjust quickly to an online model for the remainder of the school year. This week is the first time students have been back in classrooms in nearly five months, but officials said they are ready.
“Our faculty and staff have been very busy getting our schools ready for the start of classes,” said Dr. Dee Dee Jones, superintendent of Hartselle City Schools. “It has been great to have half of our students come in (at a time) so they can transition into the new routines we have put into place.”
Mask-wearing students are learning how to navigate school this year, with temperature checks and social distancing measures implemented in every school. Roughly half of the system’s in-person students attended classes Monday, and the other half attended Tuesday, with all students set to come together Wednesday.
The staggered start time was designed to help get students and teachers used to the new procedures, including extended time between classes at the high school and elementary students eating lunch in their classrooms.
Crestline Elementary School Principal Karissa Lang praised her students and staff for an “amazing” first day of school, adding, “I have been amazed with how well students have kept their masks and shields on,” she said.
“Procedures for entering the building have changed a bit as we screen students when they come in and little things like how they enter the cafeteria and how they see it are different,” said Lang. “But after some direction, the kids did great. Most of them have shared with us they are so excited to be back at school – and we are all excited to have them back.”
Hartselle High School Principal Brad Cooper said he’s excited to welcome students back on campus this week, and most seem to be adhering to the new policies.
As of now, he said, high school students are allowed to eat in the cafeteria with some restrictions.
“To ensure health and safety, we have added extended time between classes and added an extra lunch section,” said Cooper. “We have spread out the seats in the lunchroom to ensure social distancing. Students must wear masks in the hallways, lunchroom when not eating and in class when social distancing cannot be maintained.”
The most recent numbers for the system show that 1,053 students are enrolled at the high school and 3,551 students are registered in the school system, including 803 from out-of-district – a slight increase over last year.
Of that total number, roughly 15 percent have opted for online instruction, according to officials.
Several new teachers and staff members are joining the Tiger family this year. F.E. Burleson Elementary welcomed new principal Phillip Jarmon and four new teachers. The Hartselle High School staff has 14 new faces, including 11 new teachers. Hartselle Junior High has eight new teachers, including one shared with the high school.
Officials said the number of new faculty and staff members can be attributed to retirements, moves and needing additional teachers because of student numbers this year.
“We are excited to welcome such an experienced and amazing group,” Cooper said of the new faculty and staff members at the high school. “We had many applicants for each position and feel like we have a group of new teachers that are top notch.”