Class during COVID: Patrick Marsh Middle School teacher reflects on impact of pandemic school year

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 10:37 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 7:08 PM CDT
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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - The last day of school in Doug Maughan’s 7th grade classroom at Patrick Marsh Middle School showcased stark differences from the Fall of 2020.

The halls, which were eerily empty in August, were full of students again. They may have been masked-up and socially distanced, but Maughan was thrilled to wrap up this pandemic school year with most of his learners back in-person.

“Definitely the most challenging part was not getting to know the kids in person until the mid-point of the year,” said Maughan.

Like Maughan, student Kheo Cortez appreciated being face-to-face with his teachers and fellow students more than ever. “Once COVID happened I realized how much I wanted to go back. Cause all my friends are there. I just had fun everyday,” said Cortez.

“We value time in the classroom. We value human interaction and I think sometimes we take things for granted and I’m hoping this generation learned a lot from the past year and will take that with them for the rest of their lives,” added Maughan.

It took countless changes to get to that point, but many of the COVID-era modifications are going to stick around next school year. That includes having multiple teachers and classes in one big room.

“It actually has gone so well and the kids love it so much, we’re actually just basically going to do the same thing next year. We’re going to do a combined classroom. We’re going to have the house all in one area so we can team-teach,” explained Maughan.

“I like how the classes are like together, because they do a transition so it’s really cool and I like how they teach together and help,” echoed Cortez.

Maughan and his colleagues are also considering sustaining short outside walks between classes, originally meant to give the kids a break from wearing their masks. He explained that “it only takes a few minutes to get outside, get some fresh air and reset their body and their mind.”

With a class full of 12-year-olds, many have gotten their vaccine, another step towards normalcy.

Maughan expressed “that’s been a good thing,” because “a lot of the kids were really excited to get their vaccine.” He added “they’re looking for life to get back to normal, their activities to get back to normal.”

Cortez credited the work of teachers, like Maughan, for making this year one to remember despite everything that happened with the pandemic. “I love his energy. He like hypes everybody up,” said Cortez.

“At the end of the day, kids are still kids. Teachers still teach. The fact that we’re are just still moving in the right direction is what you take from this,” said Maughan.

The Sun Prairie Area School District will provide enrichment courses over the summer for students who choose to partake.

Right now, the plan for the next school year is to give students the option of going full-virtual or full in-person, but once they make that choice they will have to stick with it for whole the school year.

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