On the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, the teachers of the Oakville School District boarded school buses, making rounds through town and delivering care packages to each student at their homes.
The care packages were put together by teachers and included candy, snacks, small toys, bubbles, books and handwritten notes wishing students a happy Thanksgiving.
“This plan just came together in the last week or so and teachers are excited to see their students,” Oakville Superintendent Rich Staley said. “We’re also delivering lunch to the kids that need it.”
For some of our new staff, this was the first time they were able to physically meet their students.
“This has been the hardest year by far but I think this has been kind of a morale booster for staff. By this time in the year, people are tired and I think this has pumped them up because they’re excited to see kids,” Staley said.
Ricky Sisk has been working as an Oakville High School secretary for six years and also driving the school bus for the last three years — she maneuvered the yellow bus through the narrow streets of Oakville as kindergarten teacher Mary Keating and AmeriCorp volunteer Tina Bol hopped off at each house with the care packages in hand.
As the school bus pulled up to Isabella and Issac Sanchez’ house, Keating and Bol grabbed the care packages with their names printed on them and knocked on the door. Isabella answered the door, smiled and shared that it was her birthday. The bus continued going house to house — bringing smiles to the Oakville students’ faces.
Keating sees half of her students in person two days a week and the other half two days a week. She said that small class sizes, about seven students, are a kindergarten teacher’s dream but having less time with each student throughout the week is the downside.
Oakville is operating on a hybrid schedule for preschool through second grade, but some of the teachers of the older students have not seen their students in person since the school closures in March.
Students in third through twelfth grade are learning from home unless they live in an area where they cannot get internet access or are in the special education program — those students come into the school buildings in small groups.
Keating said that she recognizes the risk of having in-person school during the pandemic but feels that being able to teach her young students in person is worth the risk.
Oakville School District has been in the process of several projects to upgrade the school and fix problems. The school’s current cafeteria roof is leaking and causing health and safety issues and the school’s HVAC systems needs replacing. The school is still working on these projects and distance learning has made work on these projects a bit easier.
“It’s been an adventure. It’s kind of good in a way that students aren’t here,” Staley said. “COVID is killing us when it comes to getting parts. The two big projects that aren’t done are the HVAC, which we don’t have installed currently. We haven’t had heat since school started so we have portable heaters all over the place.”
Staley said that the new kitchen and cafeteria building is slowly coming along but still has a ways to go before it’s complete.