At this time, any other year, schools would be filled with students embarking on a long journey towards academic success, but this is no ordinary year. While the coronavirus pandemic weighs heavily on the minds of people; students, staff, and administrators at Cy Falls High School have hurdled the obstacle thrown at them and have managed to keep marching forward.
Planning how a school year would look like in a global pandemic wasn’t an easy task. It involved everyone. One of those people was Principal, Becky Denton. She and the staff had to work many hours of their summer to ensure that they would be abiding by the new safety regulations in place.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours of planning went into reopening school,” Denton said. “I don’t just mean meetings for me but all over. District and departments like transportation, food services, student services, curriculum – all working to make sure we cover every detail.”
This seemingly impossible task that could cause serious doubt in some people’s minds, but never once did Denton feel like the school year was in jeopardy.
“I never had a doubt. I just wasn’t sure how it would look,” Denton said. “Anytime I would feel knocked down, I would remind myself of why I do what I do. The students, staff, and I were ready to get back in the fight.”
But to get back in the fight, it required a larger custodial force to combat any chance of a virus spreading. In previous years, the school had around one or two custodians whose primary focus was to oversee each lunch period, but that all changed with COVID-19.
“Now we have up to five custodians during the day,” Associate Principal Kyle Parsons said. “They sanitize the halls and restrooms after each passing period. They also do a deep cleaning of every classroom every night. Teachers are also provided with disinfectant spray and sanitize every desk between every class period. Our custodians and teachers are working tirelessly to do everything we can to make sure everyone is safe.”
Parsons, who is beginning his ninth year at Cy Falls, expressed how fortunate teachers and students are in today’s technologically advanced world to be able to teach students in class and at home.
“Things will continue to get better as we get more [comfortable] and become a one-to-one,” Parsons said. “Being able to connect with students at home is a necessity. We all need interactions to develop socially and intellectually. Zoom allows students and teachers to connect daily, and it provides opportunities for students to get real-time help and further explanations.”
Kellye Sandlin, a teacher who has taught many different history courses over her 14-year tenure, said that COVID-19 has been challenging to adjust to, but remained optimistic about the future.
“It was definitely a different start to the school year, with having to adjust to Zoom and Schoology,” Sandlin said. “It has been a learning process for me to build these activities and also to find efficient ways to grade them. I am super thankful that I work with great teams of teachers that collaborate really well.”
As far as face-to-face instruction goes, Sandlin says she has spaced out the students and even got creative on how to fill the empty desks.
“On the empty desks, I’ve printed pictures of lesser-known people throughout history. I hope to change these out every grading period,” Sandlin said. “I spray the desks after each class and encourage kids to use the hand sanitizer on their way into and out of class.”
Off-season summer practice for Eagles football was disrupted by the virus. Head Coach, Chris Brister, said that the biggest hurdle during the off-season was finding a way to get back safely while implementing the protocols that were put in place.
“We’ve had resilient players who have done a tremendous job of adapting to the differences in what we’ve been required to do. I’m really proud of them. They’ve done things right since this whole thing started,” Brister said. “You have to make the best of your circumstances in life. We’ve not had one player complain or become discouraged with any of this. Obviously, things aren’t ideal, but we’ve persevered through all of it.”
Principal Denton wrapped it up by talking about how much she misses the students who do remote learning and said she hopes to return to some sense of normalcy soon enough.
“I am a hugger and want to high five, hug, shake hands, et cetera. In addition, I miss seeing the faces of people. I miss their smiles,” Denton said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the teachers and the way they have met this challenge with such professionalism and grace. Again I am reminded that this staff can do anything.”