Pratt students go back to school in style; good vibes felt by all

Fran Brownell
Pratt Tribune
Liberty Middle School sixth and seventh grade students (from left) Madilyn Bolen, Sydney Riley, Taylor creadick, Morgan McGreevy, Savannah Copus, Lliana Craft pause for a first-day-of-school photo before going into their building on Wednesday, August 26, 2020.

Last Wednesday, August 26, Pratt USD 382 students returned to classrooms for the first time since last March 13 when the COVID-19 pandemic changed the face of public education for the first time in even senior citizens’ memories.

At Liberty Middle School, where 329 Pratt Greenbacks grades five through eight attend, morale was high, said Principal Ryan Creadick.

“That goes for teachers, students and staff,” Creadick said.

Arriving at school, LMS students assembled on the school grounds until 7:40 a.m. when doors opened and students masked up to enter the building. Masks are required to be worn by inside USD 382 schools by teachers, staff, students and visitors.

LMS Athletic Director Ron Hill, who also teaches 7th and 8th grade Boys PE, pre-recorded a video which was posted on the USD 382 Facebook Page the day before school started.

“We’re looking forward to an awesome school year,” Hill said. “There will be a few changes, but we’re going to let it roll like water off a duck’s back. It’s going to be fine.”

Hill’s video emphasized the requirement that masks must be worn in the school building throughout the day.

USD 382 Superintendent Tony Helfrich who was at Southwest Elementary for opening day said, “I could feel the excitement from kids and teachers as they were lining up to go into the building to start their day.”

Helfrich said he felt the joy from both teachers and students.

“They’ve been waiting a long time to see each other,” Helfrich said. “I could feel pure, positive energy coming from both students and teachers.”

Commenting on the start of school under COVID circumstances, Helfrich said, “I think the first day and first week went incredibly smooth with all the extra things we’ve had to put into place.”

Pre-school students are asked to arrive in masks, but are not required to wear them throughout the day.

“We’re emphasizing social distancing in pre-school classrooms. We have small groups and they are spaced six feet apart and we’re also taking advantage of weather to have outdoor recesses,” Helfrich said.

“There’s certainly parents who don’t want us to require masks and we also have parents who want us to be more restrictive,” Helfrich said.

The superintendent said the district is following Pratt County Health Department guidelines to determine the protocols.

Hand sanitizers are used in every classroom.

“We’re doing our best to keep everybody safe.” Helfrich said.

USD 382 kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment for the 2020-21 school year is 1,127 students, down from 1,152 for the 2019-20 school year.