Despite the global pandemic, schools around the state are trying to keep things as normal as possible for their students to ensure that they are being supported during this uncertain time.
Many districts, committed to keeping students in school as much as possible, have created new programs or adapted old ones to accommodate for social distancing guidelines, and are continuously testing and monitoring their students and faculty to address any minor outbreaks that may arise.
Cheshire’s Dodd Middle School, led by Principal Mike Woods, has remained committed to its students from the start of the crisis. Part of that effort includes finding a way to keep one of the biggest middle school traditions on the school calendar this year.
“It’s been a really difficult year for all of us. It’s been really hard on our teachers who plan and work so hard every day to teach our students,” Woods said. “But despite everything, we really want to try to keep our eighth grade Washington, D.C. trip planned, and I think we can do it.”
As of now, the Dodd D.C. trip is scheduled for May 26 through 28 and Woods believes keeping this trip “as is” will be extremely beneficial to those who plan on participating.
“Most parents I’ve heard from are happy we’re still having the trip,” he said.
”We are maintaining every precaution we can, but a lot of families and I think that we can still do this and keep our kids safe.”
Each year, as a part of their Social Studies curriculum, eighth grade students learn about the different branches of government. The culmination of that instruction is an end-of-the-year trip to D.C. to see the monuments and buildings that house some of the nations most important documents and serve as home to the leaders of the federal government.
“Every year, our students head to the Capital and they learn so much. We really wanted to try to keep this tradition alive as much as possible,” Woods explained. “I think, after a lot of conversations with Dr. Solan, that this is something we can pull off.”
Several details must be considered in order to make a trip of this size a reality in any typical year, but this year Woods has to factor in the obvious uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. The pandemic took hold in the nation in the spring of last year and forced Dodd to cancel their planned 2020 trip
“We are working with a new hotel provider, and have factored a lot of different testing measures into the trip as well,” Woods added.
The D.C. trip isn’t the only trace of normalcy that Woods would like to see at Dodd. He also hopes that students will be able to return to a rotating schedule, provided that COVID-19 cases trend downward.
“It is our biggest hope that students will rotate again next year,” he said. “These students have had to sit in the same room all day with the same peers. It’ll be so much better for them to see their friends and move around when they can.”
Currently, Dodd has forgone the traditional rotating schedule to ensure that students are kept separate from one another, although data suggests that schools are not the biggest areas of community spread of the virus.
“We were all nervous that, when this pandemic started, kids would not keep their masks on,” Woods explained. “But they’ve actually done an incredible job at maintaining distance and hand-washing”
The one area where “normalcy” isn’t likely to return this year, however, is in the winter sports arena, where several games have had to be postponed or canceled outright.
“Unfortunately, we were only really able to do basketball and competitive cheerleading this winter, and I know many were upset about that,” Woods added.
Despite the struggles, Woods and the rest of the team at Dodd Middle School are committed to educating Cheshire’s youth in whatever way they can.
“We learned a lot in this pandemic, and are still learning every day, but one of the biggest takeaways is that we can be prepared for anything,” Woods said. “We are ready for whatever is thrown at us, especially now.”