For children who spent all last year in virtual instruction, this fall represents a big — and possibly tough — transition. But one principal in Fairfax County, Virginia, has found a way to ease the way for her virtual learners and their parents.
Last school year was all virtual for the four Hajovsky kids, with the youngest, Colton, starting kindergarten at home. But in about two weeks, the younger kids will head into the classrooms at West Springfield Elementary School for in-person instruction.
"I'm a little bit nervous, but I am looking forward to seeing my classmates again, and my teacher," said rising third grader Molly Hajovsky.
Those nerves were calmed a bit by something special that Principal Kelly Sheers has been doing. As the last school year was wrapping up, Sheers began home visits, dropping in on the virtual learners.
About 140 of the school's 500+ students had been learning online only. One goal for Sheers: an in-person pat on the back. She brought along sunglasses and a cheery card.
"I missed those families and the students, but I also really wanted to affirm them, you’ve done a hard thing … you’re doing an amazing job," Sheers said.
Another goal: Meet those children, especially kindergartners, who had never set foot inside the school.
"I wanted them to have a face. They might not know anyone else in this building, but now they know the principal," Sheers said.
There were photos taken at every stop. Sheers says her campaign also gave parents and kids the opportunity to ask questions so they’d be comfortable with the return to class.
"I really appreciated it because she was still thinking of us," said rising fifth grader Rylie Hajovsky.
Rylie's brother Colton, soon to be a first grader, said of Sheers, "I really like that she came here."
And their mom appreciated another gesture: Principal Sheers provided teacher assignments early, back in June.
"For them, it takes a weight off their shoulders to know who their teacher is," Ashley Hajovsky said.
The outreach seems to be paying off. "Virtually" all of the at-home learners will be going back into the building this fall.
West Springfield Elementary School also held a new family playdate on the playground this week, and rising sixth graders are giving tours to families who want to get a look inside before school starts.