TRENTON — It may stand to reason that if students are required to be 6 feet apart from one another there would be fewer disciplinary problems.
School principals throughout the district say they are seeing a reduction in needed discipline among students since returning to in-school instruction, but the distance may not be the only reason.
“The kids just seem so happy to be here,” said Connors Emerson Principal Barb Neilly recently. “I think it was a long spring and summer for some of them and they’re just really happy to be here.”
Pemetic Elementary School Principal Rhonda Fortin, who has also seen a decrease in disciplinary referrals this school year, agreed with Neilly.
“The reasons for this vary, but at the top of the list, I believe, is that students are excited to be back in school,” Fortin said in an email to the Islander. “School provides structure and time to be with their friends, both of which contribute to children’s sense of happiness.”
Fortin, along with a few of the other elementary school principals, listed a number of contributing factors to what is different about this school year. Outside of having to keep proper distance, students are learning in smaller groups, not transitioning as much during the day, having lunch delivered to their classroom, operating in a more structured environment and getting more time outside.
“Kids do well with boundaries,” said Tremont Consolidated School Principal Jandrea True. “They go outside in their pods. They are developing close-knit communities. It’s really interesting to watch.”
Trenton Elementary School Principal Mike Zboray explained being 6 feet apart, while standing in line and seated in the classroom, can eliminate most disciplinary referrals.
“It’s harder to nudge the person in front of you,” he said in a conversation with the Islander. “It’s all those things that proximity lends a place for kids to be more mischievous. In the halls, everyone’s constantly being regulated to stay 6 feet apart; even the adults need reminders. All of that lends to heightened oversight.”
While there has been a decrease in disciplinary referrals, they have not completely gone by the wayside.
“I wouldn’t say it’s eliminated everything,” said True. “Those challenges have been replaced with new challenges. There’s some kids that this structure may be harder for.”
For the most part, students who previously required more attention and support may be having a difficult time, but others are thriving in the current situation.
“Some kids who you would think would have a really hard time are doing really well,” said Zboray. “The kids have been great. Their willingness to abide by all these rules in order to be together. They thrive and they need it.
“I try to let kids know as often as possible how impressed I am,” he added.