Belle Heth Elementary exemplifies drop-off changes in Radford

Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 5:33 AM EDT
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RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ) - One of the big changes for schools this year is the bus/carpool drop-off procedures. A lot of school districts are heading back Monday, Aug. 24, so WDBJ7 went to Belle Heth Elementary in Radford to see how they’ve managed the changes over the last two weeks that Radford City Public Schools have been back in session.

We asked Principal Tara Grant how the first day of the new temperature-checking and drop-off protocols went. She laughed, waved her hands and gave a little scream to acknowledge how nerve-wracking that first day was.

While she’s been the principal at Belle Heth for five years and worked in education for 20, she said she never could have predicted a school year like 2020.

“It’s been the most challenging year I’ve had in education and I think everyone would say the same,” Grant said.

Not only has COVID thrown a wrench in things, but this year, K-6th grade students from McHarg Elementary are also at Belle Heth while their school is being renovated. That means about 830 students get dropped off every other day.

“This year because of the pandemic we are on a hybrid, face-to-face schedule where half of the kids that chose hybrid, face-to-face come on Mondays and Thursdays; the other half comes on Tuesdays and Fridays,” she explained.

School drop is between 7:30 and 8 a.m. Every student gets his or her temperature checked. Everyone wears masks. And everyone gets asked wellness questions like, “Do you have a tummy ache? How does your throat feel? Are you coughing?”

Grant said they learned to make adjustments to the drop-off protocol just after the first day.

“We needed more people on duty,” she said, explaining how the first day there were only four temperature takers greeting the kids; now there are eight. “And we need to start taking temperature earlier because last year we didn’t have the little kids that take a long time to get their book bag and unlock their doors and get out of the car seat and things like that so we adjusted very quickly.”

Over a dozen staff members and Radford University nursing interns help make sure every student is healthy and feels loved before they even walk into the school.

“Half of our kids live in poverty and so we want them here,” Grant said. “We want them to know they are loved. We want them to know what the expectations are. We want them to eat breakfast and lunch. And we want to see them. They have so much to learn. They didn’t get their full year last year so we have a lot to do.”

She added that she has some of the best people working for her to make that happen.

“The people that work with kids are like warriors. They are heroes,” Grant smiled. “They know they’re in a pandemic. They know there’s a chance they could get COVID, but yet, they want to be here because they love them. I mean, school is love. And the people that work here are heroes because they want the best for kids.”

She said her biggest hope for the year is that the kids get to keep coming to school.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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