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GCPS Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Edwards presents his vision for the school division during Tuesday’s Emporia Rotary Club meeting at Shoney’s. Pictured from left are Tom Grennel, Edwards, Arthur Kreienbaum, John Walston.

On Tuesday, GCPS students went to class for the first day of school, facing challenges their predecessors never faced. For the first time since March of 2019, all GCPS students headed to the classroom.

GCPS Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Edwards visited all four schools in the division Tuesday morning to talk with educators, parents, and students. Thinking back to the days when he was a student, Edwards knew he never had to go to class during a global pandemic. That isn’t the only difference between his school days and today’s students.

“I drew on walls with crayons,” he said. “These babies have tablets in their hands. I didn’t know what a cellphone was until I was a sophomore in college. Looking at that timeframe, every time I look at a baby 3 or 4 years old, they are manipulating a cellphone. They’re manipulating a tablet. So we’re trying to reach them where they are and educate them in the education world as well.”

Technology is changing the way today’s students learn in school. Virtual learning was on the horizon. The pandemic sped the process in the virtual direction sooner than anticipated.

All pre-kindergarten students in the GCPS division have tablets. All GCPS students in grades 1-12 have chrome books.

The critical challenge is making sure all students have access to a quality internet connection. The ever-improving broadband capabilities should soon make that challenge a thing of the past. However, we are not entirely there yet in Emporia-Greensville.

Today’s students have another advantage or disadvantage depending on whose perspective you are looking from.

“If the weather hits us badly, guess what we can do? We can just crank up virtually and don’t have to miss a day of school,” Edwards said. “We can still provide quality education even if the students and teachers are at home.”

COVID-19 forever changed how students are educated. Students are back in school amid the ongoing pandemic, and it’s a challenge for them and their teachers. The virus hit Emporia-Greensville hard. Educators and students have lost family, friends, or know someone that died from complications of COVID-19.

“We are offering free mental health visits for our staff to help with re-entering the workforce,” Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Kathleen Crowder said. “We are offering this free counseling to our staff to help them learn how to cope with coming back to the classroom to make sure their mental health is taken care of to be able to help our students grow, not only in education but also in a healthy mental state.”

THE GCPS division is taking more precautions than any school system in Region 8. Students are temperature-checked on the bus and when they enter their school buildings. Teachers and students have plexiglass, separating themselves from others. Preparing the students for the future is the goal for Edwards and the GCPS staff. Currently, none of the four schools have full accreditation. Edwards seeks to change that quickly. His goal is to see all of the schools fully accredited by 2023.

“Are we where we should be? The answer is absolutely not,” Edwards said. “But, we are striving when we talk about moving GCPS forward to get to exactly where we need to be. Where we need to be is full accreditation.”

The goal is the near-future target, but as Edwards said before, the target in education is constantly moving as technology changes. Keeping up with where the target sits at all times is the key to success.

The superintendent is excited about the start of the new school year and the possibilities the future has in store for the staff and students of GCPS.