NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Metro Nashville Public Schools system started the process of reopening schools Thursday by welcoming certain students with disabilities back into classrooms. Thursday is the first day for students who attend contracted special-day schools, including High Road School of Nashville.

“I love them being in school and I miss them being in school!” said High Road School of Nashville Education Director Gentry Campbell.

Teachers and staff help children in grades first through 12th who have emotional and other learning disabilities, and like many students nationwide, have been challenged by virtual learning. The school has been on a virtual learning model since Thanksgiving break.

“To see them, knowing what their deficits are, knowing that it takes a little longer, knowing that they need that extra support, knowing all these things and then trying to give them all of those things through virtual learning, that has been heartbreaking for me,” Campbell said. “I do know that our children are able to learn, they are able to progress, they are able to do all the things that any other students are able to do. They may not do it at the same pace but they are able to do it and to have to do that through virtual learning… these babies had to do that through Zoom, they had to learn to Zoom, they had to learn to keep up with their schedule.”

Campbell said taking the students out of their regularly structured environment meant taking on a new way of learning for them, as well as their teachers.

“It has been challenging for our kids and they have deficits in math and reading and then to be in a virtual setting where they don’t get the one to one help from the teacher and from the assistant has been very difficult for them,” Campbell. “When you are doing virtual learning if we hang up from our Zoom, now I’m doing my work and if I come across something that I don’t quite understand, oftentimes our children will just say I’m just not going to do it. Whereas if I’m in school and I come across something and I’m in class and we’re doing independent work and don’t understand it my teacher is right there to help me.”

She said teachers sometimes physically went to pick up completed assignments from their students or sent packets that students could mail back to the school. They are among the educators looking forward to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Until then, Campbell said they will work to teach their students in the safest way possible. Safety precautions include face masks for students and staff, social distancing reminders, hand sanitizer, and frequent cleaning. The students will also use their own laptops provided by MNPS.

“A lot of the parents are wanting them to come in person and even the time we were virtual parents were calling saying they wanted to come but I do respect the fact that metro put a lot of things in place to make sure that kids are safe,” said Campbell. “Safety comes first. And they wanted to make sure that before we transition back to school that safety measures were in place and I so respect that.”

She said one lesson that many people learned throughout the pandemic was the value of teachers.

“This has given people a true appreciation for the art of teaching,” she said. “It has truly. People who thought that teaching was so easy. I think it’s given people a real appreciation for what we do every day.”

If Metro Nashville continues its improved trend in COVID-19 cases, MNPS will continue the phase-in process as follows:

  • Tuesday, February 9:  Grades Pre-K-4 and students with exceptional needs  
  • Thursday, February 18: Grades 5 and 9, transition grades for Middle and High 
  • Thursday, February 25: Grades 6, 7, and 8 
  • Wednesday, March 3: Grades 10, 11 and 12 

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are moving forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.