‘Emotionally exhausted.’ Mt. Olive School superintendent says pandemic had major impact on education

It was just about one year ago that school districts in New Jersey were waiting to see what the future of the school year would look like during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Districts across the state quickly learned that the virus moved swiftly and that schools would be forced to teach students virtually.
“I think I speak for everyone in education, I’m emotionally exhausted and a little numb at the same time,” says Mount Olive School Superintendent Robert Zywicki.
Zywicki says that March 9, 2020 feels like it happened a decade ago. He recalls the date clearly because it was the last time he spoke with the faculty and staff.
“I had just secured Wi-Fi for all of the kids in the district with the idea they’d have to attend remotely for about a month,” he says.
Four weeks of virtual learning was all that they had expected. Administrators had no idea how the virus would spread. Over that year, 80 students and 80 staffers would test positive for the coronavirus.
The faculty never expected schools to be shut down, and Zywicki says that the staff realized something else.
“We really took for granted the fact that we got to go to school every day and be together as a faculty and be with kids and kids learning collaboratively from one another,” he says.
Now that vaccine supplies are on the rise and teachers are eligible for the shot, Mount Olive is taking a major step. On March 22, 60% of students will be back in school full time, five days a week.
“We are still enforcing our social distancing. We have plexiglass barriers. The kids will have masks on the whole time. But it’s the closest to regular school in over a year,” Zywicki says.
The superintendent calls March 22 a “watershed moment.” He says that he predicts that by September 85-90% of students will be back in the building.
Zywicki also says that this last year has shown that school plays an important role in a child’s academic and emotional aspect of life.