Godwin Heights — With her twin sons holding on to each of her hands, Josephine Macias maneuvers the halls of West Godwin in search of their teachers.
While both Luciano and Leonardo attended West Godwin as kindergartners and first-graders, it is Macias’ first time navigating the school.
Macias was among the parents who attended the West Godwin open house Aug. 17, which included the opportunity – for the first time since the pandemic began – for parents to come inside to see their children’s classrooms and meet their teachers.
“It is a relief for me,” said Macias about visiting her sons’ classroom. “To be able to meet the teacher and see the classroom so I have an idea of what their day is like is important.”
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Pandemic Puts a Hold on Visitors
At the start of the 2019 school year, the Godwin Heights district completed a change to its elementary education program. It designated West Godwin to house kindergarten through second-grade students and North Godwin would be for third through fifth grade.
“So we started the 2019 school year off and part way through the year, we had to shut down due to the pandemic,” said West Godwin Principal Mary Lang. “This resulted in us not having parents being able to come into the building.”
’To be able to meet the teacher and see the classroom so I have an idea of what their day is like is important.’– Josephine Macias, mother of second-graders Luciano and Leonardo
For the start of the 2020-2021 school year, as part of its guidelines to help minimize the spread of COVID, the district decided only students and staff would be allowed in the school buildings.
“The result has been that parents have not been able to volunteer for classrooms and we have not been able to form a parent-teacher organization (PTO) for the school,” Lang said.
In the spring, West Godwin had a family picnic and through that saw the importance of students, parents and school staff interactions. It was decided that the school needed to host an open house in the fall for students and their families.
Offer It and They Will Come
Even before the 4 p.m. start time, parents and students were arriving as staff stacked backpacks with school supplies, prepared food, and set up games.
Within a half hour, shouts of delight could be heard as students ran to greet each other. Parents lined up to fill out school surveys, collect backpacks and get their students’ pictures taken. A hot dog dinner was also available.
“I had these two as students and now they are bringing me their children,” Lang said excitedly as she visited with former students and Godwin graduates Alicia Cole and Leishla Alvarez.
“This is great,” said Alvarez, who has a kindergartner, Olivia, going to West Godwin and a third-grader, Kimberly, attending North Godwin. “We haven’t been able to get in before the pandemic, so it will be fun to be able to walk around the building and see it.”
“It’s been a while since I have been able to go in,” said Robert Rogers, whose daughter Zoie will be attending second grade. “It’s gonna be cool to see what they have changed.”
The Magic Hour
At exactly 5 p.m., Lang, through the school’s intercom, welcomed everyone to West Godwin, provided some instructions and then the doors officially opened.
It took Macias a few turns before she found the right hallway.
“I see it,” she said to Luciano as they made their way through a group of students and parents. “It is just down the hall.”
A couple of minutes later the threesome entered Jennifer Huver’s second-grade classroom.
“Welcome,” Huver said to Luciano and his family. “Shall we see if you can find your desk?”
In another hall, Joseph Sheriff was meeting his first-grade teacher Linda Tortorelli.
“He is from Sri Lanka,” said a family friend who accompanied Joseph and his family. “He says he is a little scared and nervous because school in America is different than in Sri Lanka.
“It certainly is going to be an adventure.”