West Florence High School faculty, students share excitement for first day of school

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Students at Florence 1 Schools returned to the classroom for the first day of school Monday.

Students spent the day meeting their teachers and getting their Chromebooks in working order. West Florence High School principal Matthew Dowdell said he and the school’s teachers have been looking forward to the school year for much of the summer.

“Just seeing those smiling faces, getting ready for Friday night lights and all the athletics starting up, it’s just an exciting time,” Dowdell said. “We’re excited and we’re fortunate to be back.”

Dowdell said some COVID-19 protocols are still in place, like assigned seating to help with contact tracing and increased cleaning. He said he is glad students can be around their friends and teachers again.

“Kids just need that socialization and I need it as the teacher,” teacher Natalie Shealy said. “I mean, I get hyped up when they’re in here. There’s nothing like having a room full of kids.”

She said virtual school wasn’t awful, but she prefers face-to-face instruction. Other teachers agreed.

“This morning driving to school I was so excited,” teacher Ashleigh Singletary said. “I saw students waiting for the bus and I was like yay, we’re finally getting back to some kind of normalcy.”

Over the summer, teachers worked to make their classrooms welcoming for students who had not been on campus before. Some students looked forward to seeing friends who attended virtual school last year.

“Last year all my friends were virtual and I was the only person out of my friend group that was here,” junior Nathan Irick said. “But now they’re all back so it’s a lot better.”

Dowdell said the social aspect of school was lacking for many students last year.

“They needed this from a mental health standpoint,” Dowdell said. “Being back in the building, being around their friends, having those people they can talk to like guidance counselors and assistant principals.”

Dowdell said he and many of his teachers had been looking forward to the start of the school year for much of the summer.

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