Adjusting to mask-optional inside Harrison County Middle School

Posted at 5:08 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 18:46:34-04

HARRISON COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — As some Fayette County students return to the classroom without a mask for the first time in two years, we wanted to visit another district that recently made the change.

One month ago, we reported on Harrison County Middle School, which was still recovering from the surge in COVID-19 cases due to omicron.

At the time, the principal estimated up to nine staff members were absent due to protocols, and there was a thin substitute pool.

But the numbers dramatically improved soon after, and the district chose to make masking optional.

Jenny Hyatt teaches Social Studies to seventh graders at HCMS. She noticed an immediate difference.

"All of a sudden students are interacting a lot more than had before," said Hyatt.

"That first week, it was unique. The volume, it was off the charts," said Principal Mike McIntire.

McIntire says the biggest change beyond masking was allowing all students to eat together in the cafeteria again. He says the first days were an adjustment, but the kids have been resilient.

"This was the first day I've had in two years where I truly felt normal again in the cafeteria," said McIntire. "Obviously we have a huge hand to deal with academic losses. But at the same time, I'm hoping that the social side of it picks up faster and again. I feel optimistic about it."

Inside her own classroom, Hyatt is able to relate lessons of the pandemic to times in history when people had to learn and adapt just to survive. Instead of using a hypothetical, such as a zombie apocalypse, she can use the past two years as an example.

"Because it's something relevant to them now. They can truly make that connection to some historical event now because of what they lived through," said Hyatt. "You can't go back to the way you did things before. Because the way that we did things doesn't exactly exist anymore. And you have to be willing to change, and adapt and move on."