New Marco Island Charter Middle School Principal Michele Wheeler experienced her initial first day of school as a principal under the challenging circumstances brought about by COVID-19. It could be expected that someone in her position might be a bit frazzled.
She wasn’t, however. Contrarily, the capable principal appeared cool and collected as she and her staff welcomed sixth, seventh and eighth graders back to school on Monday, August 31.
“I think it went really well,” Wheeler remarked. “Normally, our car line is a little crazy at 8AM. Today, we had no cars in the car line at 8 AM, which was amazing. We had a small group lined up for temperature checks at around 7:35. We got them through super-quick.Everyone got their temperature taken. We got all the kids to their first period classrooms.So, it went really well.”
As classes changed at 9:30 AM, Wheeler was in the thick of the action, kindly reminding students to be aware of social distancing. Her staff was very visible in the hallways, helping students find their way.
Wheeler’s biggest surprise was that some students didn’t know where their first period classes were. She attributed that to the fact that schedules weren’t published until yesterday.
“Some people didn’t even know the schedules were available,” Wheeler said.
Naming the highlight of the day was easy for Wheeler. “Just seeing the kids. They’re all like, ‘Hi, Mrs. Wheeler!’ It was cool to see all of the kids.”
COVID procedures are at the forefront at MICMS.
“We have them written down in our reopening plan,” she explained. “As far as morning arrival procedures, the students have different entryways. The seventh grade enters through the gymnasium, the eighth grade enters at the main entrance, and the sixth grade enters at the end of Building One. They come in and have their temperatures checked. We had a list of students and where their first period classes were so that we could tell them where to go.”
Wheeler credits her students as part of the reason why the first day of school went so smoothly.
“This morning, on our morning news program, we showed everyone how the directional hallways work,” she said. “The videos are student-created by our morning news crew. They explained the directional hallways and how students are supposed to navigate the buildings throughout the day so that we can social distance. We have directional marks in all hallways in both buildings. Little circles show the kids know how far apart they should be.”
From Wheeler’s vantage point, things seem to be going well as she said, “So far, so good.One of our challenges may be students trying to use hallways they’ve used in the past that they can’t really use this year. So, it’s just going to be a little bit of a learning curve. Sixth graders, I think, will be just fine. They haven’t been in the building before, so they don’t know about the hallways we had in the past. This year some of the seventh and eighth graders might take a day or two to get used to things.”
The mood among teachers and students seems upbeat.
“I think everybody’s excited,” Wheeler enthused. “We had a few technical difficulties this morning with the Zoom not working. But other than that, I think everybody’s happy to be here. Happy to see the kids. We have our staff shirts on and we’re ready to go. I think the kids are excited. I haven’t seen anybody sad or crying.”