‘It feels more like home’: More teachers return to elementary school

‘It feels more like home’: More teachers return to elementary school

CHARLOTTE — More teachers returned to Smithfield Elementary in Charlotte, and the school is coming alive again.

“It feels more like home. Having the hallways empty, it’s kind of eerie,” said McKenna Hayes, a fourth-grade teacher. “Getting to see friendly faces, even if it’s just from the nose up, you can kind of feel the energy change.”

Everyone in the school has to wear masks and keep their distance from each other.

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“Everyone here, it just brings the camaraderie,” said Kerri Donahue, a first-grade teacher. “Being able to see people and talk to them, it’s a lot better than being on your own island.”

Donahue and Hayes have been going to their classrooms since August. They’re now joined by more of their colleagues with K-5 teachers reporting back Monday, which is two weeks before their students begin to return in groups on Nov. 2.

“I feel safe. I feel comfortable,” Donahue told Channel 9, “We have made sure that our classrooms are ready for the kids. Our custodians are amazing with making sure that everything is there for us.”

“We had our filters. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools came in and switched them out,” Hayes said. “Luckily, we’re in a building with lots of windows so we can open those.”

The teachers said they have been pleasantly surprised by how remote learning has gone.

“I’m really proud just of the kids,” Hayes said. “They have risen to the challenge.”

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The teachers said they are incredibly excited for their students to return.

“I have an amazing class,” Donahue said. “It’s been going really well. Kids are resilient. They got into a routine and they have been rocking it. But there’s nothing like actually seeing them in person. I think it’s going to be a very emotional day for everyone.”

However, not all elementary teachers are back in the classroom.

According to numbers Channel 9 got from CMS, there are 3,795 general education teachers. There are 265 teaching positions that are approved for remote work accommodations because they are in the high-risk category.