ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Rock Island-Milan students have been in class for 100 days. It's a major milestone for students and staff, as they haven't had students in the classroom full time since before March 2020.
Second graders at Eugene Field Elementary School celebrated the day with a variety of 100-themed activities.
For seven- and eight-year-olds, a full-time in-person school year has never existed before. The pandemic shut down classrooms when they were in kindergarten, and nothing has been the same since.
District Superintendent Dr. Reginald Lawrence hopes a sense of normalcy with in-person learning happens this year.
"Just being able to keep the doors open means that we have a better opportunity to meet our students' needs, as opposed to how things were last year," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the social interaction while in-person is unmatched for students. On top of that, he said being in-person allows teachers to better interact and connect with students.
"When they can see their peers and peers can respond to questions and answers, as opposed to just being on the screen and seeing the one person in front of you," Lawrence said, "That social aspect is what has a major impact on their learning."
Second grade teacher Calley Barnes was thrilled to be back in her classroom with her students.
"It's so important that they're here. So we do everything we can for them to get the experience of having a second grade year that they will remember," Barnes said. "This age is so important."
The class' 100 day celebration coincidentally aligns with the 100th week of the pandemic, which comes with the start of next week.
Lawrence said it's a daunting fact they have spent three years dealing with this kind of learning uncertainty. Still, he's optimistic things will only continue to get better from here.
"100 days of anything sounds like a lot," Lawrence said. "But it means that on the flip side, you've continued to persevere. You haven't given up."
The year hasn't come without its bumps, with certain classrooms or even buildings shutting down for quarantine periods. Despite this, the whole district has not been shut down.
"We've had a few little bumps in the road with some adaptive pauses at a couple buildings, but for the most part, we've been meeting our goal of trying to keep our doors open for the remainder of the year," Lawrence said.
The district is currently working with the state to provide SHIELD testing for students and staff within the district and increase access to testing.
Lawrence said the district hopes to have that program up and running in the next few weeks.