The Robeson County Board of Education is currently located at what was formerly Janie C. Hargrave Elementary School in Lumberton, N.C. PN Photo/Zachary C. Young.
By Zachary C. Young, Editor-in-Chief
The Public Schools of Robeson County (PSRC) began in person learning, March 1 for grades K-12. This is the first time the county’s public schools have offered in person learning since the pandemic closed their doors, March 13, 2020.
There has been much debate regarding this topic, and other than the students, those most impacted are parents and teachers.
Jamonica Watson is the mother of a third grader at Southside Ashepole Elementary, and a seventh grader at South Robeson Intermediate. Both schools are in Rowland, N.C.
At first Watson was not looking forward to her children returning to in person learning because of the simple fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. However, one of Watson’s sons is diagnosed with ADHD and she rather he has face to face instruction.
“It’s a struggle because you don’t know what other people are doing as far as their PPE and how they are carrying on,” said Watson.
Watson mentioned that her son was the only one on his bus when he was picked up Wednesday morning, March 3. She questioned the bus driver about the bus’ seating arrangement.
“He rode the bus this morning and was the only one on there. The bus driver said there were not a lot of students to pick up. I think a lot of people aren’t letting their kids go back,” added Watson.
Even though students alternate from being in person to virtual every week, Watson said when her children are learning remotely they attend class during their regular class time via Google Classroom and Canvas.
For food, children who are learning remotely will receive school lunches during the week, just as they had received while schools were closed. Children who are learning in person will have their food delivered to the classroom, where they will eat it at their desks.
There is plexiglass along the front and both sides of the students’ desk.
Beth Oxendine is a fifth grade reading teacher at Deep Branch Elementary, in Pembroke N.C. She is also the mother of a daughter in sixth grade and a son in kindergarten, both attend Deep Branch Elementary.
Oxendine is not a fan of virtual learning, especially for younger children.
“I think kids’ education was not meant to be on a computer. It’s meant to be teacher to student, personally interacting. With younger students being at home, they don’t have the materials there to be hands on,” said Oxendine.
Despite favoring in person learning, Oxendine called the reopening of classrooms “a very complicated setup.”
For instance, recess has been replaced by mask breaks. Students at Deep Branch Elementary are granted 15 minutes for said break, and students are able to go outside for fresh air—still adhering to social distancing measures.
“I think it’s still not working as effectively as anybody would like it to. My husband and I decided that we would let our kids start fresh at the beginning of the year. I feel like it’s too much to try to implement this far in the school year. It is unstructured and unorganized to me,” added Oxendine.
Oxendine acknowledges that Deep Branch Elementary has done the best they could to meet and uphold the reopening requirements laid out by the school board.
Freddie Williamson, Superintendent, Public Schools of Robeson County, was unavailable for an interview.