Students eager to get a head start on the coming school year returned to campus in July, for study skills classes that followed stringent safety protocols.
Norfolk Academy offered three week-long classes as part of its Summer at the Academy, two for Lower School students and one for Middle School. In all, 55 students attended.
The classes represented the first since March in which students were back in classrooms; Gov. Ralph Northam closed Virginia's schools for the spring in an effort to control the spread of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
For students' safety, the summer program included a number of health requirements. Temperatures were taken when cars drove up, and if anyone registered 100.4° F or greater, everyone in the vehicle needed to leave campus. Students wore masks unless eating lunch or taking occasional mask breaks (a practice medical experts recommend). Desks were set up 6 feet apart. Hand-washing took place before students entered the classroom, after breaks, and before and after lunch. Students used their own water bottle, activity binder, and Chromebook, and each area the group used received a thorough cleaning and sanitizing every day.
Even with all those measures, Olive '28 enjoyed her week of Lower School classes. She liked brushing up on math, social studies, and English - and seeing her friends on campus for the first time in more than four months.
“It has been really fun," Olive said. “It's nice to see their faces and say hello."
The classes helped students explore their own unique learning styles, while teaching a variety of study strategies, and skills like organization, communication, time management, test preparation, stress management, and how to create an effective study environment. Younger children also received keyboarding instruction.
Teacher-coach Rich Peccie led the Middle School class, while sixth grade instructor Phil Call taught both Lower School sessions. Mr. Call said he learned valuable lessons that he'll apply once the school year begins.
Among those lessons: Young children should be reminded regularly about proper mask wearing and hygiene protocols. He also learned how loudly he needs to speak while wearing a mask, and how to engage children who might be shy with a mask on. Over the course of his two weeks teaching, he figured out how to work his way around the room while still keeping a safe social distance, and make eye contact to help quieter students become more comfortable.
“It has been really good to see kids again and be teaching in the classroom," Mr. Call said.
Anita Pozin, Director of Summer and Auxiliary Programs, said she also learned valuable lessons from the July classes. She communicated regularly with parents, sending letters reminding them about safety guidelines and facility upgrades Norfolk Academy has made.
The study skills classes ran from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily, and included lunch time, outdoor breaks, and parent drop-offs and pick-ups. In that way, they provided a sense of what a typical school day will look like.
Students were encouraged to ask school nurses questions early on, so they could grow accustomed to protocols. They also spent time practicing safety measures. As an example, they extended their "airplane arms" to gain a feel for 6 feet of distance.
“The kids have adapted quickly," Mrs. Pozin said.
With everyone wearing masks and keeping social distances, the classes were not the same as before the pandemic, Olive noted. Still, her week left her excited for the school year.
“It's a lot different," she said. “But good."
To learn more about our safety protocols, building upgrades, and expectations for the 2020-21 school year, please visit our Reopening Plan.