CBS4 gets exclusive look inside ‘socially distanced’ classroom amid the pandemic

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WAYNE TOWNSHIP, Ind. — Students are headed back to class, and for the first time, CBS4 is getting a sneak peek inside a “socially distanced” classroom amid the pandemic.

Westlake Elementary teacher Criquet Johnson walked back into her 4th grade classroom for the first time in July.

“It was a little hard, just knowing I didn’t get to say goodbye to my kids the way I wanted to,” she said. “I felt like when I walked in, this time, there was a lot of unfinished business from last year.”

Johnson got to work quickly, sanitizing and rearranging her room. First, she removed all of her flexible seating.

“These seats won’t be in here anymore, the comfy-cozy ones,” she said. “I can’t use disinfecting wipes on them so they have to go until further notice.”

Johnson, who is well known throughout the school for letting kids sit where they want, will have to assign them seats and supplies.

“This is going to be a big shift for me, not just for them,” she pointed out. “They’ll each get a book bag where they can put their folders and their books, so everything will be in these. Then, they have their own art box.”

CBS4 watched as Johnson measured out three-to-six feet for each of her desks. Johnson had to do it more than once, trying to fit all of them into the room. Instead of pods, each desk is required to face the same direction.

“We’ll just do rows and across,” she said. “Pretty standard.”

Johnson fears it will impact how the students learn.

“I would like to say no, but I know that it will,” she explained. “I have a lot of kids that usually fidget. They like to get up and walk around. They don’t necessarily stay in their seat. And then, I can’t be like, hovering over them, like, ‘oh, you’re having an issue with this problem? Let me see, let me get over you.’ I still need to stand back.’”

Another thing Westlake Elementary students will notice when they return to school is plexiglass barriers in the front office and directional arrows in the hallways.

“We’re going to have markings on the floor, so only traffic going one way on the right side, and then when you come back, on the other side on the right-hand side,” Dr. Dennisha Murff, Westlake Elementary Principal, said. “We need there to be a clear flow of traffic.”

Dr. Murff said the first day back at school will be difficult for families, especially since parents will not be allowed inside the building.

“But we will have people making sure all of our students are getting to their locations safely,” she pointed out.

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