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The school year is flying by, Cooper principal Chad Mims said recently, but in spite of restrictions to slow the pandemic, it's been a very smooth year.

"Everyone has adjusted," he said about the mask requirement. Teachers are able to provide "mask breaks" throughout the day, he said. Cooper kids have PE every day, as well as recess time, so that helps, he said. Students are able to spread out and take off their masks. Parents have accepted the new regulations without any "push back," he said.

District communications director Leslee Wright said parents have been helpful with the mask regulations. They helped by getting students used to wearing them before the school year started. Parents also supply the masks for their children.

About 150 Cooper kids are doing virtual school, Mims said. Those students are divided into classroom groups, and specific teachers have been assigned to teach those classrooms. The teachers are at Cooper every day, even if their students aren't, Mims said. That way virtual teachers can attend the common planning period for their grade level and ensure virtual students are keeping up with the students attending in person. A student working at home this semester will be ready to return to in-person school when necessary.

Districtwide, a few teachers who are at risk for the virus, teach from a district building where there are no children in attendance, he said.

Virtual teachers follow the same schedule as in-person teachers, Mims said.

Teachers are preparing for virtual parent/teacher conferences at the end of October. Conferences were done online last spring, Mims pointed out, so it should go smoothly.

The deadline is approaching fast for families that want to switch to virtual school; or from virtual school to in-person learning in the spring, Mims said. Those requests need to be in by October 16.

Everyone will be virtual for two days this week. Across the district, schools will be closed on Oct. 15 and 16. Those two days will be used for deep cleaning buildings. Teachers who are usually in the classroom each day will be working from home, Wright said. That will give them some extra time to work on special projects for their students.

All over the district, students bring their school-issued Chromebooks home each day. That way, if school becomes virtual, the students are ready, Wright said. Younger students may not use them every day, Wright said, since they are not assigned very much homework, but older students use them for assignments. Families are asked to buy insurance for the equipment each school year.

"We do miss our volunteers," Mims said.

Schools have limited access to everyone except staff and students. At Cooper, volunteers used to be in the building every day helping with everything from classroom preparation to the front office. Now, not even PTO members can spend time at the school and the staff has noticed the difference, he said.

But in spite of challenges, the school year is going well and quickly, he said.

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