CALDWELL — Andi Arnold’s English classroom at Caldwell High looks more like a coffee shop than a classroom.
When the pandemic hit Idaho, Arnold knew she would have to make changes to her classroom. She got rid of her fabric furniture and replaced it with leather and vinyl couches and chairs, and spread out the seats at the expense of her teaching space. The redecoration helps her students social distance — and relax.
Arnold, like many other teachers in Idaho, has made adjustments to her teaching practices and environment since the pandemic began.
Jason Green, math teacher for Gateways Elementary and Secondary School, spent his first days with his students showing them how to stay safe in his classroom. Gateways is an alternative school that serves students with special needs, and he said he has to remind his students daily of the new rules.
Green’s students are instructed to stay at their desks, which are spaced across the classroom, for the entire class period. Several of Green’s previous lessons have involved interactive tools like fraction graph pieces, but Green said he’s adjusted these lessons because he can’t use those tools anymore.
Much of Green’s regular curriculum relies on group work, which also isn’t possible now. He said he tries to make up for this by reviewing how to solve problems more consistently with his students, but it is challenging for some students without the exploration they get from working with their peers.
“It’s easier for some kids to learn from each other than from their teachers,” Green said.
Most of Arnold’s students are seniors, so she said she rarely needs to remind them about wearing their masks properly or social distancing. She said she more commonly corrects students about social distancing in the hallways.
Caldwell High changed its class schedule in response to the pandemic, reducing the seven-period days to five periods. In addition to adjusting her lesson plans to fit the new schedule, Arnold said she also spends the final few minutes of every period spraying disinfectant on every surface students touch, and uses her students to help her identify surfaces to clean. She’s gone through two bottles of high-grade disinfectant already this year.
Caldwell High returned to remote learning Oct. 21 after an outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in more than 14% of the high school staff needing to quarantine, and the school did not have enough substitute teachers to fill the gap. Arnold said she’s been told that hybrid learning should resume soon.
Arnold said she cried when she found out the high school was returning to remote learning. She said she loves getting to see her students in the classroom, and she knows her students get a lot of their time at school. But she said she understood the decision, and she doesn’t want her students in an unsafe environment.