FAIRBORN — Fairborn Primary students in preschool, first and second grade started their first day of school Tuesday in their brand new building.
Youngsters were able to walk the spacious halls for the first time since the building’s completion in August. With masks and coronavirus precautions in place, the school is ready to get the year off to a start in the safest and healthiest way possible.
According to Principal Vicki Hudepohl, 50 percent of primary school students returned to school in person this fall, which mirrors similar ratios district-wide. Across all grade levels, Fairborn students are split approximately half and half between online and in-person instruction.
Bringing students back into the classroom has been no small feat for Hudepohl and other Fairborn Primary teachers. However, Hudepohl said they’re starting to get the hang of it.
“We spent all of last weekend answering questions,” she said.
Fairborn school staff spent the Labor Day holiday connecting students and parents with their Teacher Student Advocates (TSAs), helping parents with their online resources, and sanitizing the school in preparation for in-person instruction.
“You can never predict what’s going to happen,” Hudepohl said. “But we’ve got protocols in place.”
The layout of the new school has its advantages for fighting COVID-19. The building is much more spacious than the old one, and lends itself fairly easily to social distancing. Where a classroom in the old building would be 500 to 700 square feet, a preschool classroom in the new building is 1,090 square feet.
Additionally, some rooms have been converted to fit the students’ needs in the pandemic age. Small group rooms have become ideal spaces for speech therapists and counseling staff to work. Other rooms have turned into sensory areas for kids who need a little more attention. The official sensory room has become a quarantine space, in the event that a child contracts coronavirus.
Teachers and staff also have expanded workroom facilities, the style of which mirrors a business setting. One of the teachers’ lounges, which the staff jokingly refer to as “Starbucks,” has comfy chairs where teachers can bring their meals, while still looking out over the main area of the school.
All in all, perhaps the most exciting innovation in the building is the indoor slide, which Superintendent Gene Lolli and district officials kept as a surprise for Hudepohl during construction.
“In the old school, I kept saying, ‘It would be great to have a slide,’” Hudepohl said. “I would say it jokingly because I was sure it would never happen.”
Lolli and other district officials kept the slide a secret by referring to it as “vertical circulation” in the planning stages. It wasn’t until after the construction flood in July that they told her what was being installed in the unfinished part of the cafeteria.
Fairborn Primary still has a few hurdles to climb as it moves into the new school year. Construction outside the campus and inefficient traffic flow hampers the pick-up and drop-off process for many parents. However, by the time Kindergarteners start on Thursday, Sept. 10, Hudepohl said they hope to have a routine going to ease those students into the new year.