Pre-kindergarten students Aggie Huang (left) and Camryn Bradford (right) play in the Courtyard on the playground. (Photo by Mitzi Mapa-Contes)

Pre-kindergarten begins school year in person

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Country Day’s pre-K students have returned in-person.

The pre-K operates under a child care license, meaning its rules are different from the rules for the rest of the school. 

The class is taking precautions while the students are in school, said Head of the School Lee Thomsen.

“The class is split into cohorts of 12,” Thomsen said. “The students are wearing masks at all times except while eating and sleeping, and we are making sure that there will be frequent sanitization.”

Despite the changes being made, Thomsen said that the curriculum will remain very similar.

“The students are split into two different classrooms,” Thomsen said. “The rooms also have the windows and doors opened for ventilation.”

Pre-kindergarten teacher Stephanie Castillo said it feels great to be back in the classroom.

“There was a lot of anxiety in the build-up of this, but for me and some of the other teachers this really is our happy place,” she said. 

This is Castillo’s third year teaching at Country Day, and she said that this year’s teaching style will be much different.

“In some ways, the effects of COVID-19 have led to pleasant surprises for us,” Castillo said. “We have developed new teaching styles and ideas that we hope to keep using even after this ends.”

Pre-K assistant May Murphy guides students through a group activity, during which students and teachers wear their masks. (Photo by Stephanie Castillo)

The pre-K now uses three distinct spaces for different activities.

The first is the “Clubhouse,” where the groups of students have meetings, build class community, and use large muscles in music and movement.

The second is the “Workshop,” where the students spend time in self-guided exploration, teacher-guided activities, art, building and inquiry, and the outdoor “Courtyard,” where students choose from playing on the play structure, cooking in the mud kitchen, or working in the outdoor maker space.

Castillo said she and the other teachers have seen benefits from separating the students into different classrooms.

“Now that they have more space, the children are playing differently and in doing so they are also learning,” she said.

Parent Kassia Kingsley is very pleased to have her daughter back in school.

“I had to think about the decision before fully committing to it,” Kingsley said. “Now, however, I am glad that my daughter is back in person. She didn’t have hardly any contact with her friends during quarantine, so having her now able to interact with other kids her age has made her really happy which makes me really happy.”

Kingsley said she feels very comfortable with the current situation.

“We were definitely hesitant at first, but after touring the school and learning about all the safety precautions they are taking, we feel very comfortable,” she said.

Parent William Camy also supports sending the students back in-person, but he does have some worries.

“I do have some worries, but I think the overall benefits of going back to school greatly outweigh the risks,” he said. “There are many benefits, educational and social, to going back to school. Also, the school has a good plan to mitigate against risk, with doing temperature checks, questionnaires, distancing, and wearing masks.”

— By Miles Morrow

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