Dr. Josh Martin, arrived at the Bangs school district in April, said the first day of school Wednesday was the best first day of school he’s ever seen.
"Everything went really smooth, even with masks and all those things," Martin said, speaking Friday at the Brownwood Country Club. "This is going to be a different year for us. We’ve got dots everywhere, and X’s and all these things.
" I was telling my staff it’s been 165 days from the time our kids were last in the classroom until Wednesday. A typical school year for kids is 175 days."
Martin said people write books and make presentations about the "summer lag" after a typical summer of 75 to 80 days.
"We’ve got a big job ahead of us," Martin said. "There’s a lot of days we could make excuses — we’re masked. We’re this. We can’t do certain activities we normally do."
Martin noted that parents only get one first day of kindergarten. and seniors get only one last first day of school. "My daughter’s starting middle school for the first time," Martin said. "I want her to go through all those experiences and have the most traditional school year that we can possibly have. I want us to play sports."
Martin said Bangs schools put on a math and reading camp toward the end of summer or students in grades three through eight. Normally students would not show a lot of excitement about attending such a camp.
"They’re up there smiling and doing equations," Martin said. "Parents have never been more excited to give us their kids. I told our staff we need to capitalize on this. We need to capitalize on this momentum. We’re trying to make this the most traditional start possible.
"We’re going to keep kids safe, we’re going to do all the things we’re supposed to do, but we’re not going to let this beat us."
If schools are not successful with academics this year, "we’ve got a group of kids as a generation that’s going to be behind. … eventually these kids are going to be competing with kids that didn’t have to go through COVID," Martin said.
"We’re going to be real focused this year on knowing where our kids are. We’re going to be really good with our assessments."
Martin said educators understand the summer gap.
"But this COVID gap is unparalleled," Martin said. "There’s not a teacher in my building who’s gone through something like this."
Schools need to do a good job communicating with parents, Martin said.
"If we follow these rules, this is what’s going to keep us open," Martin said, referring to COVID accomodations. "This is going to allow us to do sports, to do band, to do all these things.
"Yes it’s inconvenient and there’s going to be bumps along the road. If we do things right, we’ll be able to keep our schools open. We’ll be able to have all these traditional experiences."
Martin said there is no better education than students being in the classroom, interacting with teachers.
"Our teachers do an admirable job to set up an online environment that provides instruction, but there’s nothing better than getting in that classroom, being with other kids and being with our teachers … and making sure sure that when we graduate, this COVID bump is something we don’t have to discuss any more," Martin said.