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Teachers and students settling into the new school

Photo by Michele Newbanks Warren Elementary School teacher Emily Northrop instructs her second grade class Tuesday morning on how to care for animals.

VINCENT — It’s been a big adjustment, but students and staff at Warren Elementary are finally settling into their new school.

“It’s been overwhelming coming together,” said Jill Lipscomb, third grade programs teacher.

With the COVID-19 regulations, the kids have adjusted very well, she said.

“Everyone is happy to be on one campus,” she said, noting the school layout is great, as there is one pod per grade level.

“Before, there were two support staff for the entire school. Now there are two for each grade — one intervention and one programs,” Lipscomb said.

It has been helpful as they can pull students into a small group to work on issues, she said.

The “programs” used to be Title 1, and are small groups that help with intervention or stretching students to meet goals.

“These are not just low end, but we meet the needs of every kid,” she explained.

Tracey Huck, third grade teacher, said the pods lend themselves to differentials for kids, so staff is available to work with kids who need it. Combining school and specialists makes it more like family, she remarked.

“We have a living room, for pity’s sake,” she said. “This makes it closer knit and much more comfortable and safe.”

Lipscomb said for every grade, there is one class that is completely virtual, and everyone uses Google Classrooms.

“There are video lessons and they can do Google meets,” she said.

While there is one virtual class per grade, who is in those classes may change at the end of the semester.

“There is an option after the first semester to return to in-school,” Principal Joseph Oliverio explained. “I think a lot (of students) went virtual with fears of COVID.”

He said he believes if COVID restrictions are lifted, many kids may return to in-school. If more restrictions are imposed, more may decide to stay home.

Semester exams are right before Christmas break, so virtual students who want to go in-school will start in January. Right now, approximately 17 percent, or 130 students, are attending school virtually.

Annalyse Swiger, 8, is a second grade student who attended the former Warren Elementary. She said she understands people have to be spread out because of COVID.

“I think because of what’s going on right now, we can’t be together,” she said. “Because if somebody’s sick, we don’t want to get it.”

Lipscomb said she hasn’t seen a divide between kids from the former Warren Elementary and those from the former Little Hocking Elementary.

“Everyone has meshed well together. They’ve done outside things and activities together, so they know each other,” she said.

Everyone moving into a new building “evens the playing field”, she added.

Huck said coming to the new school has been exciting. The learning conditions at the new building are much better than those at the former Warren Elementary, she remarked

“There was no regulated heat and you couldn’t open the windows,” she explained. “There were fans running. This is such a controlled environment. They can just get down to learning conditions so much better.”

With having a new building with heat and air conditioning in every room, it has cut out an entire layer of difficulty to learning, she added.

Oliverio agreed it’s been “extremely exciting” to be in the new school, although COVID caused them to abbreviate some aspects of school.

“It doesn’t diminish our excitement,” he said.

Oliverio said as time goes on, “more and more routines are becoming established,” but with more than 700 students and approximately 70 staff members, it has taken some adjustment.

“(The school) took so long to get voted, approved and constructed,” Oliverio said. “There is a sense of community inside and outside the building.”

Huck said the students feel a sense of pride when they come to school.

“They are super proud of their building,” she remarked.

Swiger said the new colorful playground equipment is nice for recess, but she enjoys math class.

“On a math test, I sometimes get it right, so I practice really hard,” she explained.

Madison Casto, 6, is a quiet first-grader originally from Little Hocking Elementary. She only perked up when talking about her favorite game in gym class.

“I like to play Pac Man,” she said. “You have to stand on lines and if someone tags you, you have to sit down.”

Although she is learning the letter E in class, she likes math better, along with playing on the new equipment for recess.

“I like the bright colors,” she said.

While classes are ongoing, some finishing touches are being worked on.

“Substantial completion was Sept. 21,” Oliverio said. “There is still work being done, but we’re a month in and full-speed ahead instructionally.”

Finishing touches include bulletin boards, tack strips and painting touch-ups, he added.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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