McDuffie County school administrators, staff, and teachers wrapped up the school year last week.

Although students have not been in school for weeks, around the county the various school staffs returned to pack up classrooms and allow parents to pick up medicine left by children and personal belongings. The schools planned so that there would be a limited number of teachers in the buildings at any given time, and by Friday the school year officially drew to a close.

“At Thomson Elementary we had a wonderful school year. Of course, we were devastated at the end of the school year when we couldn’t close the year out with our boys and girls,” said TES Principal Sherrika Brown. “We have missed them tremendously.

She said it has been nice to be able to at least wave to the children when they arrived to pick up items.

“Of course, this is something that none of us thought we would ever see, but as far as our faculty and staff they have gone above and beyond to try to make sure they were keeping in touch with our students and with our parents,” said Brown, who has been working in education 21 years.

Brown said that several years ago when flu numbers spiked and they finished early by a few days, she never would have expected anything like this year.

“We just never could have imagined we would be in this situation,” Brown said.

“It’s definitely, nothing any of us have ever experienced in our lifetime. I hope it’s something we don’t ever experience again,” said Neal Tam, administrative services director for McDuffie County Schools. “I think it has shown how resilient our kids and our teachers are. They found a way to continue making it happen for these kids.”

Tam said it will be interesting to see what the start of the school year will look like.

Ponda Palmer, school nurse at Thomson Elementary, was on hand Friday to return medications left at school by students.

“I think McDuffie County has done an excellent job in handling this pandemic and I think we are looking forward to a fantastic 2020-2021 school year,” said Palmer.

Earlier in the day at Dearing Elementary, the principal, assistant principal, and limited individuals were on hand for the school’s final day.

“It has been a very unique close to the school year,” said Stacey Amerson, DES principal. “We’ve learned a lot in the realm of digital learning and learning from home. We’ve adapted with Google Classroom and we’ve learned how to use Zoom effectively.”

She said the school used Zoom for faculty and grade level meetings each week with staff and teachers used it to meet with students.

Amerson and Sonya Thomas, assistant principal, participated in some of those meetings on classroom level Zoom meetings with teachers and students.

“That was nice. We got to see faces,” Amerson said.

The DES principal said if has been very “different” packing up at the end of the school year since they are limited to only 10 people in the building at one time. She said many of her teachers packed up last week.

Looking forward, Amerson sees education may change after the pandemic.

“It’s just going to be different from here on out. We just don’t know what the difference is going to look like,” Amerson said. “It’s just going to be a new experience.”

Lorenzo Heggs, a school resource officer at DES, was accustomed to the day-to-day of walking the hallway among the students.

“Well, it’s something different. I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” he said. “It’s sort of scary, but by the same token we’ve got to stay safe and just follow what the CDC says.”

And in similar fashion to what was taking place at all the schools, the DES school nurse last week was returning medicines to students and their parents.

“It’s been very scary, very emotional not knowing. I follow the CDC guidelines, God first because he has control over all of it right now,” said Candy Pavliscsak, DES school nurse. “We all use common sense and do what we are supposed to do.”

She said she has been wondering how it will be next year for school nurses working face-to-face with children when the next school year begins.

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