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Back To School In Buncombe County Still Isn't The Same As Pre-Pandemic


For the first time in almost a year, some students in Buncombe County are returning to the classroom five days a week. Bringing them back requires changes across the board.  


Each school is different, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan.


At WD Williams Elementary, principal Carrie Lynch says it’s all about finding new ways to use old spaces. 


“Places like our school auditorium, which is typically not a place that we allow students to eat, but we are looking at how many students can we seat in there, maximizing that spacing piece,” Lynch said. 


Since the pandemic began, students have either been fully remote or in school on a hybrid schedule two days a week.


This is the county’s first attempt at plan A, allowing kindergarten through third grade to return to a full, five-day schedule.


While teachers have had the same students all year, this is the first time they’ll all be together in one classroom, and there’s lots to consider.


Students must spread out to eat. Car rider lines will take longer because of temperature checks. Some teachers might even use a soccer field to read aloud.


The list goes on.


Despite all of the logistics, Lynch says there’s a nervous excitement in the air as students prepare to meet their classmates for the first time. Even the kindergartners are feeling it.


“The kindergarten student looked up to the teacher and said, You mean, I'm gonna meet the girl that sits at that desk,” Lynch said.


Jennifer Reed is the director of elementary and intermediate education for Buncombe County.  She believes that even with desk spreads and masks on, in-person learning is best for younger students. 


“They learn by playing they learn by speaking back and forth. We believe that that immediate feedback they can get from a teacher on the spot in the classroom is helpful to student learning and growth,” Reed said. 


Students in 4th and 5th grade will return to plan A next week. All other grades will remain on a hybrid schedule.