ELKTON — “This is going to be a day I remember,” said Kimberly Carew as she watched her class of four students during recess at Gilpin Elementary School Tuesday.

While the majority of Cecil County Public School students went back to class virtually last week, a select few are actually in the school buildings learning.

“We typically have 380 to 400 students,” said Don Foskey, principal at Gilpin Manor. “We were supposed to have 18 today.”

However Foskey said some did not show up and there was an effort underway to learn why, such as a missed bus or a misunderstanding somewhere. The students that were chosen for this first step in the process toward full schools would not have found success at home, Carew said.

“The big thing is not all students have the support at home,” Carew said. “There was a lot of discussion about who to have in the classroom.”

Students with learning challenges including learning disabilities or language gaps were in this first wave, Foskey said.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to have more here,” Carew added.

Cecil County has six high schools, six middle schools and 17 elementary schools. Over the summer there was a plan established that would get technology into the hands of every student for virtual learning and teachers were given training and support for conducting those online classes.

As students return to their actual schools they will find what precautions have been put in place thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the classrooms there are dividers and markers to encourage social distancing and lessons came from Chromebooks at each desk. Of Carew’s four students, three were in one class of third graders and a fourth was in a separate class.

Even recess looked odd as students carried pre-packaged sports equipment onto the playgrounds.

Zah-Mere Bey tossed a football with Tyler Durant, a paraprofessional at Thomson Estates Elementary School. Nearby Eli Clarke tossed a ball with a friend while Jackie Bahr and Flori Garcia-Rosales worked on jump rope skills. Katherine Derby, principal, said the activity bags were a safe alternative to the playground equipment, which would not have allowed for social distancing.

Derby said it was a great feeling to have students back, even if it was smaller numbers. Carew agreed.

“There were lots of smiles this morning,” Carew said, although those smiles were behind masks. She was frustrated that she could not properly welcome her new charges with a hug.

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