New year, new normal: Holston Middle School welcomes first students for orientation

Education

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Backpack, hand sanitizer, and a mask are part of the 2020 back-to-school checklist. In the weeks since Knox County Schools let out in March, to slow the spread of COVID-19, administrators have had one goal: Get students back to class, safely.

Holston Middle School was practicing that Thursday with 6th grade orientation. The students there, learning about a new school and at the time, learning about a new normal.

Temperature checks for students, faculty, and visitors entering any school building. Face coverings, a must. Newly installed hand sanitizer stations and a newly installed water bottle filling station, to replace the drinking fountain — some of the noticeable changes.

There are signs reminding students to social distance and keep their masks on. These are changes many students have, likely, already seen in other areas of their lives if they’ve been to a business or restaurant in Knox County.

“If a student has a fever, we have a dedicated area where we can house them with a nurse until we have to call home and have a parent come and retrieve their child,” said Katie Lutton, Principal at Holston Middle School.

Lutton carries extra masks, hand sanitizer, and a thermometer with her at all times. She hopes by setting an example, herself, students will follow.

Principal Katie Lutton shows off her health and safety tool-kit with extra masks.

“We didn’t get to say goodbye, we didn’t get to do all of our end of the year parties, our incentives, our field trips, all of those where we spend time with our students… getting to know them. have fun with them,” said Ginger Cook, a 6th grade social studies teacher.

Cook said the hardest part for teachers was the abrupt end to the school year, or lack thereof.

Teachers at Holston Middle School wear face shields in the classroom.

Students back at Holston Middle School are excited to see friends. Many, only staying in touch by video chats or drive-by hellos.

For 7th grader Justin Burris, last year didn’t go as planned.

“It was a full, good year, 2020. but until we heard of COVID-19… I knew it was about to end,” said Burris.

For others, like Kayla Chesney, getting back to school is exciting, but not because of the changes.

“I’m kind of nervous cause, like I said we haven’t seen each other in months. we’re going to 8th-grade, new teachers, it’s gonna be different,” said Chesney.

Then there’s Bryson Maddox, ready to see his friends, but also, play basketball.

“We’re excited to see each other, we know it’s not going to be the same. Have fun with it,” said Maddox.

All students in Knox County Schools will be back to school, officially, Monday. Families were given the option to learn from home, virtually.

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