School reopens in Greenbrier County

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By Bobby Bordelon

Greenbrier County Schools are back in business as of Tuesday, September 8, with students returning to in-person classes. Teachers, principals, and Superintendent Jeff Bryant all agreed the reopening has so far been a success.

“We can say we have two days in the books,” said Bryant. “I know it’s a cliché, but we’re literally going to take it one day at a time and try to keep our head high looking forward the entire time we’re doing it.”

The students, with a few exceptions, seemed to be ready to return to class.

“They seem to be excited,” explained Sandy Beale, who teaches English and language arts at Greenbrier East. “A couple of them said ‘I wanted to do remote but I don’t have the Wifi’ but most of them are really excited. They wish it were normal, but they’re just excited because they haven’t seen some of their friends for six months.”

After Greenbrier County approved their reopening plan in late July, students and teachers both were able to look forward to returning in person.

“At East, it’s gone really well,” explained Beale. “Well organized, students are wearing their masks, no one has complained verbally to us. … The first day was the 9th graders, [Wednesday] was the 10th graders, [Thursday] is the 11th, and Friday would be the 12th, at our school. … [We’re] just getting a lot of paperwork and stuff out of the way the first week so we can go right into the learning and lessons daily next week. We’re all just kind of adjusting a little bit to the new way. [I’m] looking forward to next week when we can actually begin our teaching process.”

Beale’s positive assessment was echoed by Byrant and several Greenbrier County principals after the first two days were completed.

“[Tuesday], I spoke personally with every principal and every assistant principal in our 13 schools and I received unanimous response that they felt like day one went exceptionally well,” Bryant explained. “The students were very cooperative. … Day two, same response. … They felt very confident that all the planning that all the stakeholders did paid off in making day one successful. That included parents, community leaders, legislators, our teachers, both professional and service personnel, our board of education members, our entire community that worked all summer with to create the plan.”

In the Meadow River Valley, Rainelle Elementary opened, with a sigh of relief as the first day was successful.

“Rainelle Elementary had a successful first day of school,” explained Principal Kimberly Tincher. “Our staff was in full-force to welcome our children back. The students were so excited to be back at school, you could see smiles through their masks. There were no complaints at the end of the day, and as my faculty reconvened after the last bus pulled out of the parking lot, there were sighs of relief that our routine had been successfully executed.”

Lewisburg Elementary also celebrated the first few days open, with Principal Leann Piercy-McMillion explaining their goals and plans.

“Our mission at Lewisburg Elementary School is to ensure that all students learn in a safe, academically focused environment that supports self-sufficiency, happiness, and continuous growth,” said Piercy-McMillion. “In this time of Covid-19, our experience is a little different than times past, but our mission remains! … Through our teamwork, virtual engagement, in-person environment, flexibility, and focused professionalism — The smiles and gratitude between students and teachers prove that the happiness in our mission is well within our reach! It has been a great start to our new school year at LES!”

Piercy-McMillion celebrated the school’s team of teachers, staff, and students for their in-person and at-home efforts.

“The entire staff adheres to safety/cleaning measures and guides the students as they practice those important guidelines,” Piercy-McMillion explained. “Our students are still joyfully eating in the cafeteria, learning in the classrooms, walking in the hallways, and practicing related arts. They are developing important social/emotional skills with their school counselor, Mrs. Hall, leading the way. Our teachers, staff, and administrators have become a stronger team! From the start of the day to the very end, we are supporting students academically, providing literacy guidance, math interventions, enrichment and providing the tools students need to innovate and create. After in-person students have left the building, the hard work continues! Teachers are providing the same lesson support, guidance, and connection to students and families who are learning remotely.”

When asked if the model could keep schools open for the rest of the year, as long as Greenbrier County doesn’t experience an outbreak, Beale supported the plan.

“I think so,” Beale said. “I think it’s very well organized, we had time to plan our lessons and we’re trying to make it as equatable as can be. I think it’s going to be fine.”

For more information on school reopenings, the safety guidelines, and public questions answered, see the article titled “Greenbrier County Schools, Robert C. Byrd Clinic answer the public’s questions on school reopenings.”