By Courtney Collins, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Payton Couey, COM 303 Editor
MOUNT BERRY, Ga.— Berry College Elementary and Middle School is continuing to allow student workers from Berry College to work in the school amidst a worldwide pandemic.
Student workers, who are education majors at Berry College, are continuing to work in the Berry College Elementary and Middle School (BCEMS) every day despite concerns over COVID-19. There have been many precautions put into place in order to keep students, faculty, and student workers safe.
In order to allow everyone back on both campuses, BCEMS and Berry College have made some drastic changes. They started with mandating masks, enforcing social distancing, and cleaning the school twice a day with Virex. Students, faculty, and student workers are required to wear masks at all times.
Different classes do not interact with each other. Therefore, a student worker or faculty member takes the students’ lunches to their classrooms every day, so that all classes can eat lunch in their separate classrooms. During recess, only one class is allowed on the playground at one time. After each use, student workers from that class spray down the entire playground with Virex.
Kindergarten teacher, Michael “Lewis” Byrne, explained how children are coping with the new normal.
“Children are much better at adapting to what is required than our society as a whole,” Byrne said. “If you tell them they have to wear a mask, they wear a mask. We haven’t had any issues with this.”
With all these changes, many challenges have come to surface as well. BCEMS, much like the Berry community as a whole, has a large family-like atmosphere.
“BCEMS is basically a big family,” Byrne said. “So not being able to interact with each other on the playground or through combined classes took some getting used to.”
BCEMS faculty believes that the benefit of having the student workers outweighs the risk they are taking. Student workers work in the same classroom all year long. They assist the teacher and students while also learning from their environment. The student workers make connections with the students, and they receive firsthand experience to what they will be doing for their lifelong careers.
Elizabeth Poncela, student worker, is very thankful to still have a job this semester.
“I feel pretty safe when I go to work,” Poncela said. “I know that everything is cleaned and sprayed down with Virex often. Everyone wears masks, and classes stay together, so they don’t interact with each other. I’m in the kindergarten class, and they all keep their masks on very well, so I feel as though we are all protected well.”
Sarah Johnston is also a student worker who works in the front office. Her job consists of disinfecting the school and helping pass out lunches every day.
“I do not always feel totally safe,” Johnston said. “The students can bring it in from the outside and not even realize it. Most of them have older siblings in high school, and they have guardians that can get it. Other student workers and even the teachers can be exposed without knowing and spread it to other student workers.”
Although Johnston is concerned about the risks involved, she is still excited to be on campus and grateful for her job that allows her to make many solid connections for her future career.
Rachel Hanlon, student worker, is working in a middle school classroom this year, and she spends a lot of her time in the copy room rather than working directly with the students.
“While I definitely miss the relationships that are built when I am working more closely with the students,” Hanlon said. “It has also been good to take a step back from being so hands-on. Initially, I was a little hesitant about coming back to work, but like the college, BCEMS has implemented a mask mandate, so all students, teachers, and student workers must wear a mask while at school, which makes me feel safer.”