PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- At Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School on Paschall Avenue in Philadelphia, CEO Leigh Purnell is preparing to welcome children back to the classroom.
"What families can expect is a normal school year. They can expect to see seating in the classroom very similar to what they were used to in our pre-COVID times," said Purnell.
This will be the fourth school year impacted by COVID, and many schools, like this one, are shifting to more closely resemble pre-pandemic operations.
Younger students may not even remember what that was like.
"Bringing students back from a lot of the technology-assisted communication to really get back to face-to-face conversations, it's just a big part of what we need to do to help our students to be successful," said Purnell.
There will still be COVID protocols in place including masking in the event numbers spike.
But, at this school, lunch will move back to the cafeteria from classrooms, and recess programs will move back outside.
"I think there's a combination of feelings. There's certainly trepidation because we've spent so much time being concerned about being in close contact and close quarters with other people," said Purnell.
It's been a balance: making decisions for safety but also ensuring students get the interactions and socialization important for academic and personal development.
"It really is a work in progress," noted Purnell.
But even positive changes can lead to anxiety. Some might be inclined to avoid interactions entirely.
Purnell encourages families to do what they know to do, like hand washing and keeping sick kids home.
"It's time for us to start to move into a space where we are existing with COVID as COVID is becoming endemic," said Purnell.
Some children might need a little extra help as they continue to adapt, in which case, Purnell urges families to be in communication with their children's teachers.
"There is no 'should' when it comes to feelings. Right? And, so know what your child's needs are," said Purnell.
"When they let us know that something is happening, then we can put supports in place in the school, and if we don't have supports in place in the school, we can reach out to the broader community."