By Tricia Murdoch Zmaj
Southeastern California Conference schools started classes virtually this year, but students were still able to visit campus for events to meet teachers and new classmates. At schools throughout the conference, principals, teachers, and staff made sure that the students felt welcomed back to school.
As Elisa Suphol, vice principal at Mesa Grande Academy, said: “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” This optimistic attitude inspired a lemonade parade on the evening of the first day of school. The families of the MGA students drove through campus, listened to the socially distanced band of their classmates, and enjoyed the lemonade that the teachers passed out to the cars.
Inviting students and their families to decorate their cars and drive through campus proved to be a good way for Escondido Adventist Academy to welcome students back to campus. According to Principal Bill Davis, “Thanks to EAA’s use of an FM radio transmitter, each car could tune into an FM station and hear music and fun commentary as they drove through campus.” Teachers set up supplies and welcome gifts for the new year under the portico, and students could stop their cars, collect their supplies, and take pictures with specially made signs.
Datha Tickner, conference associate superintendent, said that although schools could not meet in person on the first day, “more and more schools have been able to successfully apply for waivers to allow for in-person instruction for grades K-6.” Tickner said that schools that have been allowed to open for younger grades follow screening measures and social distance guidelines, with masks for students and teachers. The Office of Education is working closely with schools and the county public health departments on the new criteria for instruction for all grade levels. “It keeps us on our toes,” Tickner said.
On the first day of school at El Cajon Christian School, the 32 students from kindergarten to eighth grade were able to meet their teachers and new classmates for a well-attended icebreaker with popsicles, balloons, and games. “We painted circles on the grass so that the students would stay six feet apart,” Pendeza Lawrence, principal of El Cajon Christian School, said. “The students ran to find the circle for them and enjoyed playing games for prizes.” Each student had their picture taken in front of a cheery, bright yellow banner that read “First Day of School.”