Face-to-face learning resumes at Jefferson County Joint Vocational School

BACK TO SCHOOL — Barb Pieniazek, an English teacher at Jefferson County Joint Vocational School, is working with students in person once again after conducting classes remotely for months. The school resumed face-to-face instruction, making it the first time that juniors and seniors have been in school together since the COVID-19 pandemic struck and led to a shutdown last March and a hybrid learning format at the start of the school year. -- Contributed

BLOOMINGDALE — For the first time in more than a year, Jefferson County Joint Vocational School has both juniors and seniors in the building after COVID-19 prompted a shutdown and altered their education.

The pandemic closed schools last March and students followed a hybrid learning format when classes resumed in August, with juniors and seniors attending on alternate days for program labs while academic classes were conducted remotely. But all 300 pupils were finally back in the building on April 6 for face-to-face instruction. Officials, teachers and students alike are delighted to see things return to relative normalcy but guidelines remain in place for everyone’s protection.

Supervisor/Principal Dan Hartman said corridors and classrooms were finally full once again but leaders are taking extra steps to ensure safety.

“It has been amazing,” Hartman said. “They came back after Easter Break. We are maintaining masks and have dividers in every classroom, which is not part of the COVID rules, and we have a new ionization system as part of the HVAC to help with air particles. We also have assigned seats as an element for contact tracing and they follow regular lunch schedules but are kept with their program cohorts.”

He said that having academic classes onsite has also been a plus so students can get ahead with their schoolwork.

“Being able to be in academics has helped keep them on track. Overall, it’s better to have teachers in front of the kids, plus there is a social-emotional element if they have face-to-face contact with their teachers.

Welding instructor Todd Parker commented that the environment has an air of normalcy.

“I love having the students back,” he said. “I helps with normalcy and I honestly think it’s important for them to have a scheduled day to follow.”

“I like having them together because we get a lot accomplished any given day,” added Automotive Service Technology instructor Ron Reasoner.

JVS English teacher Barb Pieniazek was pleased to see all of her students back in the classroom after conducting lessons online.

“I love having them back and I love teaching them,” Pieniazek said.

Several students noted that while they enjoy roaming the hallways and seeing friends and teachers in person throughout the week, they wished it could have happened sooner.

“If we came back earlier, I think it would have been better for us,” said senior Mason Brown.

“I think it was a good idea that we came back,” added senior Raven Shannon, saying regular attendance would help students improve their grades.

Senior Andrew Perrie said that social interaction is important, but unfortunately graduating students didn’t have a chance to enjoy their entire senior year.

“We’ve missed out on experiences,” Perrie said.

Juniors Kaylee Carpenter and Kayla White, students in the criminal justice program, said they get a real school vibe having the seniors under the same roof.

“I get to see who the seniors are and talk with people other than my fellow classmates,” said Carpenter. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”

“It’s easier to learn things in person and it seems more like an actual school experience,” added White.

Superintendent Todd Phillipson said schools followed mandates regarding operations under COVID rules but he was pleased to see things back on a more even keel.

“It’s great seeing them all back in school. It’s going well and I’m glad to have all of the kids here,” Phillipson concluded.


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