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Teachers, students adapt to increasing return to classrooms

Del Mar Middle School students listen to their teacher, Rian Lynam, during a math class. Coronavirus safety protocol at the school includes teachers and students wearing face coverings at all times, protective barriers around desks and physical distancing inside and outside of the classroom. (Clara Lu / For The Ark)

As Del Mar Middle School Principal Brian Lynch winds his way through the school’s outdoor campus on a recent Friday morning, there are constant reminders that this school year is unlike any other. Directional arrows painted on the ground designate one-way paths along walkways; lockers are sealed off to students, who must now keep their backpacks with them at all times; and classroom doors are flung wide open, despite the chilly temperatures, to help circulate air.

As Lynch exchanged greetings with students through the face coverings required at all times, he repeated what has become a familiar refrain on campus: “Keep your space, keep your space,” he reminds the middle-schoolers, often stretching out his arms to drive home the point.

“The hardest part is breaks,” he says. “Students are so excited to see each other.”

This month marks a year since the coronavirus pandemic upended student learning, first sending kids in the Reed Union School District off campus and onto Zoom and then gradually returning them to classrooms entirely transformed by extensive safety protocols.

In the year since the initial shutdown, the pandemic has reshaped the in-school experience. Both teachers and students say the past several months have been marked by constant change and uncertainty as they’ve worked to establish some sense of routine in a year that’s been anything but normal.

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