Raleigh principal aims to calm fears as school year is set to begin during pandemic

COVID-19 and schools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Logging 16-hour days leading up to the first day of school at Carroll Middle School is intense, to say the least.

The beginning months won’t feature classrooms and hallways full of students. Instead, there will be an emptiness no modern educator has ever seen.

While one teacher’s stress can be more than the next, Principal Elizabeth MacWilliams said they do have a voice.

“It’s really important to be as accommodating as possible,” she said. “And so, we’ve offered maximum flexibility and we’re very fortunate that our teachers are well equipped and skilled and have a capacity to really, in a fantastic way, be able to provide learning and teaching.”

MacWilliams is known for visiting her students and parents in their homes. Those conversations are now on the phone as she tries to calm fears and figure everything out.

“When parents call and say, ‘You know, I just don’t feel safe.’ I understand that. And, you know, who am I to be able to to make that decision for them? I’m really glad and appreciative that the district has the support systems in place to accommodate those needs,” she said.

Another need down the line will likely be substitute teachers. They, too, may have reservations. The pool to choose from could be smaller, but MacWilliams said they will be trained in all safety protocols.

“I think that’s something we’re going to have to navigate on the fly right now. We have teachers who have applied for and have been approved to telework. And then we have other teachers who are really comfortable coming into the building,” MacWilliams said. “So, when students return, it will be interesting to see if a teacher needs to take a day off where we will pull from.”

Like any school principal, MacWilliams has a stressful job in the best of times. But, she does make an effort to keep that in check.

“I think it’s just really important to stay connected, staying in contact with our teachers and beyond just our families and students,” she said. “Especially in a remote environment, we have to get to a point where the computer is asked to be closed and the phone has to go away. Just focusing on the positives.”

Positive and hopeful it will all be back to normal like it used to be.

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