Return to Learn: Albemarle, Charlottesville teachers celebrate the first day back for virtual instruction

Return to Learn: Albemarle, Charlottesville teachers celebrate the first day back for virtual instruction
Children across central Virginia woke up to a very different first day of school on Tuesday. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Children across central Virginia woke up to a very different first day of school on Tuesday. Albemarle County and Charlottesville City schools kicked off their mostly virtual start to the school year, but it wasn’t without some minor setbacks.

Charlottesville City Schools experienced a brief interruption that impacted some of its on-campus teachers and students for about an hour but was resolved.

Overall, both school divisions are pleased with the way the day went given the circumstances.

“It’s so nice to be back and see kids' faces again," Jack Jouett Middle School Teacher Steve Whitaker said. “Since March we’ve all been sitting at home, missing building any kind of community with students.”

“We are in a situation where we have to make the best of it and I think that kids are demonstrating that they’re tremendously resilient," another Jack Jouett Middle School Teacher Abby Plein said.

After a challenging virtual experience in the spring, teachers and students held their breath logging on for a long day of remote learning.

“I think all of us went into this understanding that we’re teaching and they’re learning in a world that’s really different than the one that we left back in the spring," Whitaker said.

Luckily, months of hard work paid off. The first day went much better than expected for many Albemarle County teachers.

“To feel like they were starting off the school year at the best possible place they could be, given the circumstances, was a really good feeling," Whitaker said.

Teachers with Albemarle County Public Schools were pleased they did not have any technological hiccups. Charlottesville city schools did have a mishap, but it was part of a minor issue beyond the school division’s control.

Director of Technology Pat Cuomo says their internet filter system, Securly, had a server or two down.

“We expect a certain amount of issues each and every day just because all of this is so new, and we’re doing things we’ve never done before," Cuomo said. "Overall, it felt like a very smooth day from start to finish.”

Whitaker and Plein say the Zoom era is allowing them to get to know their students in ways they never expected.

“We’re able to get out into meet them on their own terms and to see them as learners instead of just students that come into the classroom,” Whitaker said.

“I think that just the format that we’re in is sort of requiring us to rethink aspects of school that are important to rethink anyway," Plein said.

The virtual start for both school divisions is nine weeks long. Halfway through that nine week period, school boards will decide how to move forward and see if in-person instruction is possible.

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