CAMDEN — Christmas came early this year for Camden Grandy Primary School Assistant Principal Lisa Byrum.
Camden students in grades K-6 returned to the classroom for in-person instruction Monday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and Byrum couldn’t wait to welcome students back.
“This is my 29th year and when I woke up this morning it felt like Christmas morning,” Byrum said.
Students seemed equally excited as those arriving by both car and bus entered Grandy Primary with an extra bounce in their step, Byrum said after having bus duty Monday morning.
“They were eager to get off the bus, skipping and jumping and ready to get back to school,” Byrum said. “The teachers, they loved seeing the students’ smiling faces because they are so excited.”
She thanked parents and community leaders for making Monday’s return to in-person classes possible.
“We are so fortunate to live in a community with outstanding parents that help and support us to make this day a success,” Byrum said.
Grandy Primary, which instructs students in grades K-3, and Camden Intermediate, which instructs students in grades 4-6, were the first Camden students to return for in-person instruction on Monday. Middle and high school students continue to learn remotely.
All Grandy students and staff went through a series of safety protocols before entering the school building. Parents were not allowed to enter the school.
Staff asked each student a series of health-related questions before taking their temperature. Students were then given a squirt of hand sanitizer before heading off to class. No students were turned away because of health concerns.
“It’s really exciting for our community to have our kids back in the schools,” said Grandy Principal Timothy Lazar. “The kids were super excited to get out of the car this morning. Our theme this year is ‘Team USA’ and it took teamwork and working together to pull this off. We are confident that we can handle any situation that may come our way. We are prepared.’’
Camden Superintendent Joe Ferrell said he didn’t see one student arrive at Grandy or Camden Intermediate School not wearing a face covering.
Because of COVID-19, the school saw an increased number of students arriving by car instead of by bus. Even so, Ferrell said things went smoothly getting students to their classroom.
“It went quickly and as well as it could have,” Ferrell said. “Our sheriff’s department was very supportive and sent out extra personnel this morning to help us with traffic.”
Ferrell said he wanted to say a “huge thank you” to school staff, child nutrition workers, transportation and maintenance staff for their work getting the schools ready for Monday’s reopening.
Because of COVID, Ferrell said the first day was a learning experience for school staff. He said some minor changes will be made.
“We need to get a few more thermometers,” he said. “We have a high number. But the more we can have then we can move students more quickly and get the cars moving. We are also going to look at our traffic pattern to make sure we are as efficient as possible.”
Grandy Primary and Camden Intermediate schools normally have around 1,000 students on campus. However, around 25 percent of the schools’ students have opted for remote learning only, Ferrell said. He noted those students still have the option to switch to in-person instruction.
Grandy is returning for in-person instruction, or Plan A, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Wednesday will remain a remote learning day for all Grandy students. Camden Intermediate School students in grades 4-6 are on the same schedule.
Sixth-graders at Camden Intermediate have returned under Plan B for in-person instruction on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Wednesdays will remain a remote learning day for all CIS students.
Given the number of 6th-grade students opting for remote learning only, the district is able to get all 6th grade students in classrooms at the same time and maintain the district’s social distancing requirements.
Camden Middle School will return on Oct. 19 on Plan B. Students assigned to the Group A cohort will attend in-person classes Mondays and Tuesdays while students assigned to the Group B cohort will attend in-person classes Thursdays and Fridays.
Wednesdays will be remote learning days for all Camden Middle School students. Any student currently on the remote option will be put on a waiting list to move to Plan B, if requested, as space allows.
Camden Early College returns Oct. 19 on a hybrid Plan B. Students assigned to the Group A cohort will attend in-person classes on Mondays and students assigned to the Group B cohort will attend in-person on Fridays. All early college students will have remote learning on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Camden County High School will return Oct. 26 on hybrid Plan B. Students assigned to the Group A cohort will have in-person instruction on Tuesdays and students assigned to the Group B cohort will have in-person instruction on Thursdays. All CCHS students will have remote learning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.