'I think it feels easier': Students, teachers share thoughts on returning to Cumberland County classrooms

For the first time in nearly a year, Cumberland County students and teachers met face-to-face on Monday for the start of blended in-person learning.

"We're just excited to have kids in the building; it's been a year," said Cliffdale Elementary School Math Teacher Heather Bedwin.

Cumberland County Schools gave Eyewitness News a tour of the elementary school on Monday morning.

We were taken into Bedwin's math class to observe students working on school work, socially distanced and wearing masks.

"Seeing them face to face you can understand, 'do they get the concept.' I teach math, so it's all about seeing their work. Does their work make sense? And if I can't see their work, I don't know if they're understanding," Bedwin said.

Briza Villarreal, a 5th grader in Bedwin's math class, says it's nice to be around her friends again. "I feel, uh, being online felt kind of hard and all, but now that I'm back, I think it feels easier," said Villarreal.

Cliffdale Elementary Principal Suzanne Owen says, as expected, they've been dealing with some connectivity issues and other technical problems. However, Owen says this week is all about getting students readjusted to a social environment.

Owen adds they've also seen less kids in-person than they anticipated. Some parents chose to opt back into the virtual option at the last minute.

For Michelle Hallas' daughter Lauren, Monday was her first day of Senior year at her high school.

"This morning, she told us she has 72 days until she graduates," a stark reminder to Hallas of all the time that Lauren spent learning virtually.

Hallas, along with other Cumberland County parents, led the charge to make "Plan B" become a reality.

"It's a small victory. We still need to get the children back in class full time: four, five days a week," said Hallas.

On Tuesday evening, the Cumberland County Board of Education will discuss switching to "Plan A", which would allow all Pre-K to 12th graders to return to in-person learning full time. Hallas is hoping to see the board members move the school system in this direction.

"Educationally, she needs to be there, the children need to be there to get what they've missed and to be able to ask those questions," said Hallas.
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