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A look inside Oaks School No. 3 for fall 2020

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Beth-Ann Castiello, principal of Oaks School No. 3 in Oceanside, spent Sept. 1 taking small groups of first graders and their parents on a tour of their new school building, as they are moving up from Kindergarten Center School No. 6 this year.

In her enthusiastic manner, she engaged students with information about how social distancing, mask wearing and instruction will look this year. The students got to see classrooms, with desks six feet apart, and ask questions.

“Quality education is still going to be happening,” Castiello said, as she pointed out that classrooms largely still feel the same, albeit with desk barriers and fewer desks. “I feel strongly about that.”

School No. 3 will welcome 465 students for in-person learning — about 47 students, or 9 percent, opted for remote learning. The school will also run its breakfast program for up to 60 students every morning at 7 a.m. starting Sept. 14.

There are several changes, though — students will eat lunch and have “specials,” such as music and art, in their classrooms. Recess will be held outside in seven designated areas, with their cohort only, and will rotate between those areas. And teachers will be given "fresh air spaces" to hold lessons and provide mask breaks. "We're using every ounce of outdoor space," Castiello said. "Those mask breaks will be so important for kids and teachers."

When the weather is not conducive to going outside, recess will be held in the classroom, and children will practice mindfulness and learn about health and wellness, Castiello said.

A portion of the gymnasium has been converted for the band and chorus room, where music students rehearse in the mornings. The art room has been made into an extra classroom, and there is an isolation area separate from the nurse’s office where students exhibiting Covid-related symptoms can wait for their parents to arrive. Depending on their classroom teacher, students will enter and exit through different doors upon arrival and dismissal, Castiello explained.

The first three days of school — Sept. 9, 10 and 11 — are half days that are being treated as "orientation" for all School No. 3 students to get acclimated to the new school procedures.