Robeson County students, teachers return to classroom after Florence

Robeson back to school

ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WMBF) - Class resumed Tuesday for the Public Schools of Robeson County students after being out for five weeks due to Hurricane Florence.

On Monday, administration and staff returned to the schools to clean and inspect their classrooms, as well as prepare lesson plans for the students. Shanita Wooten, the district’s superintendent, said personnel from the Department of Social Service, also worked with displaced children to make sure they have transportation and other resources they need.

Wooten added faculty and staff have worked around the clock since then to make sure the schools were safe and ready for the students return. After the storm, crews assessed the damage at schools and began cleaning mold from flood damage.

The superintendent said air quality and environmental tests were conducted to make sure the schools are safe, which kept students out for so long.

“I think they’ll just (feel) a general sense of relief when we can open out doors and say welcome back,” Wooten said. “I always tell everybody this is our second first day of school so we’re going to try and be very energetic tomorrow morning (Tuesday), make sure students know that we missed them and that we loved and we want the best for them.”

With class back in session Tuesday, teachers like Alicia Cherry-Swain spent Monday straightening up her classroom at Deep Branch Elementary, eagerly preparing for her sixth graders to come back ready to learn.

“We expected it to be bad. I don’t know if anyone expected to be out as long as we have,” Cherry-Swain said. “I wanted them to come back to a classroom and know that we’re here and we’re ready to work.”

The first assignment was for students to journal their experience going through hurricanes Florence and Michael. Cherry-Swain said the activity allows students to relive what the past month has been like for them.

”It’s so much to do after a storm like this so they haven’t had a chance to express how they feel and to talk to their classmates," Cherry-Swain said.

Over at Rowland Norment Elementary Teresa Thompson, a first grade teacher, was also cleaning her classroom. She said with students being out for more than a month, one problem they face is getting back into a normal routine.

“They’ve been out of school so long they don’t want to come back, so that definitely messed up, you know, their schedule and being home around their parents and not wanting to come back,” Thompson said.

However, she admitted she was most worried about catching them up academically.

“My main concern was how was I going to get these kids where they need to be with so much time being lost,” Thompson said.

To answer that question Wooten said teachers zeroed in on review and rigorous learning.

“We’re going to try and be very targeted in what we teach, address the standards and be very intentional with our instruction,” Wooten said.

Wooten added they hadn’t discussed any make-up days as of yet. Their main focus was getting students back to school safely.

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