SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Months after their holiday break, Savannah-Chatham students returned to their classrooms for hybrid learning. While thousands remain virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of others were excited to get back to in-person learning.
“It was vibrant, lively and so it’s back to that school atmosphere again,” said Derrick Muhammad, Principal at Johnson High School.
“It’s really exciting to get to know that I’ll be able to engage in-person with my teacher and not have to worry about technical difficulties on the computer,” explained Janiyah Johnson, 5th grade student at Jacob G. Smith Elementary School.
While they are back, learning does look much different from a year ago.
“When you’re in the classroom you want to focus on the students who are here,” said Amanda Fanelli, Social Studies Teacher at Johnson High School. “However, majority of our students are still online so I have to be cognizant of the fact that I’ve got 23 kids still on zoom that need my attention.”
Only 170 of Johnson’s 740 students returned to hybrid learning. Because of that, teachers are continuing with virtual lessons for all. That means their homework, class activities and projects are still being done online, though students in class can engage with their teachers.
For younger students like Janiyah, that can be a challenge.
“He’s (her teacher) trying to focus on one group and then the other group at the same time so it’s very hard,” Johnson explained.
Despite the challenges of dual teaching, district staff has risen to the occasion and found unique ways to serve both students in the class and online. More than half of the student body at Jacob G. Smith elected hybrid learning so they are seeking intentional interactions.
“Teachers have gone out of their way to have packets for parents so they can follow along at home with what they do here at school,” said Vernon Cole, Principal at Jacob G. Smith Elementary. “They also send home supplies if we are working with money as you saw in one of the classrooms earlier they try to make sure that they have some money to work at home with so they are following right along with the students.”
School leaders feel the district’s hybrid method helps all their student. While being in person is needed for some, they say other students are succeeding virtually.
“We have more students making honor roll now than we did before because of the online learning so we hope to be able to continue this as an option,” Derrick Muhammad, Principal at Johnson High School said.
Though school leaders admit there is learning loss for some of their students, officials say they provide extra help to those who need it and are planning a robust summer school program.
While this year is far from perfect, teachers say they are proud of their students resilience and hope to continue to build on their future.
“They will be able to look at the challenges and rise to the occasion because they survived this,” said Fanelli. “So, I am very proud of the fact that they show up every day, they ask the questions and they continue to work even though this is not the hand anybody wanted to be dealt.”
SCCPSS students who want to be considered for hybrid learning can contact their school to switch no later than February 24th, but requests will be reviewed to ensure proper social distancing is possible.
For more on the districts hybrid learning plan you can visit their website.