Cari Rustad admitted she was nervous about returning to the classroom this summer as a teacher in the Winona Area Public Schools Getting Ready Together program.
Like most educators, she was worried about how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect her family, her students and herself.
Her fears, however, were quickly put to rest.
“I really feel like we have the protocols in place to make it successful,” said Rustad, one of two teachers in the program, which ended for the summer on Thursday, Aug. 20. “The kids are amazing about how they wear a mask. They have been better about it than the adults. I really thought that was going to be a struggle, and it’s not.”
The Getting Ready Together program is for incoming kindergarten students who will benefit from some additional classroom experience. This summer, the program included 14 students, two teachers and two support staff split into two classrooms.
And while the focus is usually on math and reading skills, this summer included a healthy dose of lessons on mask wearing, proper hand washing techniques and physical distancing practices to keep everyone healthy and safe.
“We used many social stories and videos,” said Amber Scott, a GRT teacher who also teaches kindergarten at Jefferson Elementary. “We implemented many hand washing times throughout our morning.
“It went much smoother than expected.”
While the first day of school isn’t until Tuesday, Sept. 8, several WAPS programs ran as scheduled this summer — with some modifications to make sure COVID-19 health and safety protocols were being followed, of course. That included the summer Key Kids program, summer athletics and Extended School Year for special education students.
All programs adhered to COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, and all were successful. And for those who experienced the protocols first-hand, it made them feel more comfortable about coming back to school in the fall.
“I am definitely comfortable,” Scott said. “Being part of this program has helped me see the cleaning procedures and other procedures being used to keep myself and the students safe.”
Rustad knows that people will be concerned. But she was pleased with how well the students did wearing masks and following the other health and safety protocols.
“They are rule followers at this age,” Rustad said. “They learn how to do something, and they do it.”