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Northside Elementary School looks back on challenging year on final day of classes

After long months of navigating school during the pandemic, Northside Elementary educators and Sun Prairie School District staff are reflecting on the school year
Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 10:16 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:02 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - For students, families, and educators, the last day of the 2020-2021 school year likely comes with a little sigh of relief. Through the pandemic, schools and students have faced challenges and changes, adapting to new learning styles and schedules.

At Northside Elementary School in Sun Prairie, students started the school year virtually, then had the option to return for two days of in-person instruction, and ultimately ended the year with the option for four days of in-person learning.

On Friday June 10, the Sun Prairie School District reached their final day of classes. At Northside, there was a virtual assembly to start off the day. Nick Reichoff, Director of Student Policy & School Operations, said it was a long year, but he’s proud of the staff, students, and families for making it through successfully.

“I think everybody is feeling a sense of accomplishment and certainly our staff and our students have been great through the whole pandemic and really have worked hard,” he said. “Our teachers and our principals have worked hard to make sure that the end of the school year was successful for our students and have a fun way to end the school year.”

Principal Lexi Vanden Heuvel said it was important throughout the twists and turns of the year for the staff to take care of themselves, that way they were prepared for the various pivots they had to make through the year.

“In the end we’re looking back today and saying my teachers grew a lot, we learned a lot, I can’t imagine – thinking about going back to last spring and going online and going home and my teachers completely transforming how they’re educating,” she said. “It’s just incredible now to look at them and do concurrent teaching where they’ve got kids in front of them, kids at home, and doing that so fluidly. It’s been an incredible journey but everyone has grown and we’re moving on and moving forward.”

Teaching young students at the elementary level, Vanden Heuvel said it was important to have a smooth transition back into the classroom, and to have conversations with them about coronavirus.

“When they first came back to school, we spent a whole week during our morning meetings talking about COVID. What is it? What does it look like to you? What does it sound like to you? Really working on the social emotional aspect of kids feeling safe being back in school when they’ve been told for a long time it wasn’t safe to leave your home,” she said. “We did really spend a lot of time on that and had a team really just directed at looking at what that should be for our kids so they could feel good and our families could feel good about their kids coming here.”

Tenisha Winn, community site coordinator for Northside Elementary School, said she is looking forward to the opportunity for families to bond this summer through “Nelly’s Saturday Summer Spectacular,” a Saturday morning summer camp throughout Sun Prairie featuring projects and activities.

“Being a parent myself I think it’s very important that you have that time with your family that you get to know your kids again, that you get together do activities, have fun, and just laugh and love each other,” Winn said.

Both Winn and Vanden Heuvel said they’re hoping for a return to normalcy next school year.

“We’re excited about the growth that we’ve made this year, we’re excited about going back to what we hope to be something much more normal, having our kids for five days a week in the classroom is our hope, so we’re just really excited for that,” Vanden Heuvel said.

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