KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nikki Braam admits teaching her class of third grade students virtually isn’t the same as in a classroom at New Chelsea Elementary School in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public School District.
“[I miss] seeing those aha moments in real-time. I’m looking forward to having that back,” Braam said the day before KCKPS returned to in-person learning.
Wednesday, students return to the classroom for the first time since almost exactly one year ago, when stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close in order to follow social distancing guidelines.
“It’ll be more energetic Wednesday,” Braam predicted.
Over the past 10 days, she’s been preparing her classroom.
Students are required to wear masks. Each desk has a clear plastic barrier or shield on three sides. Students will stick to a pod of three to six throughout the day to limit their exposure and aid in contact tracing. Water fountains are off limits. Every other seat in the cafeteria is blocked. Signage on the hallway floors encourages social distancing and routes children in one direction.
“They’re going to want to hug their friends, they’re going to want to hug their teachers. It’s kinda hard to stop to those natural instincts and feelings we all have as humans, but we’ll get there,” Braam said of the challenges of re-opening schools.
Even with only nine weeks left in the school year, Braam is thankful to return to the classroom. She is fully vaccinated and says most of her coworkers are as well.
She believes the students will benefit more from being around their peers.
“It’ll get them prepared for when they come back next year for hopefully a normal year,” she said optimistically.
Braam expects a restless night ahead of her first day of school but says seeing her students again is well worth it.