Stronger Together. Stronger Than Ever.
We are United: Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
Gadsden Titan Band
Thanks to a lot of preparation and planning to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines, the renowned Titan Marching Band was able to take the field this fall. The 250-member band showed up with positive attitudes – unified in spirit and determined to reach their common goal. There were challenges along the way, including a two-week interruption to summer camp due to potential COVID exposure, but they worked hard and did what had to be done.
Looking back, it was a season like no other, which students will never forget. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, life lessons were learned, good times were had, sweet memories were made, and The Greatest Showman went on.
Just how great of an experience was it? Watch this WBRC feature including interviews with some of our own Gadsden City student band leaders.
We are Adaptable: PE Outside the Box
Eura Brown Physical Education
The question: How do you keep young children active and engaged in physical education while keeping them six feet apart and avoiding physical contact?
The answer: Be creative, think outside-the-box, adapt, and make it fun!
That’s exactly what Eura Brown’s Coach Chris Weaver did when he welcomed 330-plus students back to school and back to his PE class following the delayed start to in-person classes. Each child was given his/her own PE bag – to be touched by no one else. In this bag, the children found items such as a jump rope, bean bags, a yarn ball, dice, and an empty water bottle filled with sand.
The students have been performing a variety of agility and cardiovascular games using the items in their bags, and they are loving it. A parent recently donated tennis balls for all the students, so those will be added to the bags and Coach Weaver is sure to introduce some new fun games with them soon.
We Are Learning: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade
On Friday, March 13, 2020, Beautiful Rainbow Café, a farm-to-table restaurant located in the Gadsden Public Library, had a record sales day. Five days later, the refrigerators had been cleaned out, the lights turned off, and the doors were locked for what would end up being more than seven months. Since the program is a part of Gadsden City Schools, the café closed when the schools did due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The café reopened on October 27th, complete with modifications to its transparent kitchen and a staff newly trained in safety protocols related to COVID. Loyal customers have returned and Chip Rowan, the café’s director, and his staff of Gadsden City Schools special education students, are happy to be back in business.
During the time the café was closed, Rowan found ways to keep the students engaged. A virtual cookie club was started, which consisted of videos that were posted to social media once a week featuring Rowan making different cookie recipes.
Rowan planted the Beautiful Rainbow garden as he and his students normally would have in the spring. In addition to vegetables, he planted sunflowers. Then, In the summer, each student was hand-delivered a sunflower and seeds that had been clipped and potted in a food can.
Follow Beautiful Rainbow on Facebook and Instagram to see the recipe videos and other fun things going on at the café.
We Are Hopeful: Hallways of Optimism
Emma Sansom Middle School
When Emma Sansom Middle School principal Jacqueline Tiller thought about welcoming her students back to school this fall after having started the year virtually, she knew she wanted to do something special. She wanted to set a tone visually that would be therapeutic for everyone who entered the building.
Tillis and her staff achieved that vision in a big way. Students can’t help but see words of encouragement, optimism and hope everywhere they look. There are signs suspended from the ceiling, bulletin boards lining the walls and different messages on every door.
Tillis says her staff really took the idea and ran with it, and the students took notice. “Everyone is in need of some type of solace, especially in these trying times,” said Tillis. The bright and inspiring messages that abound at ESMS certainly provide that for every person who enters the building.
Visit Emma Sansom Middle School’s Facebook page to see the full collection of photos.
We Are Resilient: Seniors are Setting the Standard
Students of Gadsden City Schools
We have all heard it said that kids are resilient, and Gadsden City Schools students are proving it true this year.
“It has been a unique situation, that’s for sure,” said Caroline Partridge, Gadsden City High School senior and recently elected SGA President. Partridge and her fellow seniors are determined to make memories and have the best senior year they possibly can. “It has been heartbreaking to lose the opportunity to have things like pep rallies, homecoming float building, and the annual parades on Broad Street. As seniors, we are just really relying on each other as a class and encouraging each other.”
Gadsden City seniors are pushing forward by touring colleges virtually and conquering that oh-so-important ACT test on re-scheduled dates.
Richelle Williams, GCHS senior guidance counselor, said, “This is the hand they have been dealt, and they are showing they are resilient and determined to make the best of it.”
With the support of their teachers, administrators and families, the class of 2021 is leading the way with a positive attitude and setting the standard for all Gadsden City students.
We Are Open-Minded: Embracing New Technology in Making Music
Gadsden City Schools Music Program
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Brian Bankston, Gadsden Middle School band director, found himself in the challenging position of needing to teach students music, but not being able to work with them in person. Although it seemed like a daunting task, Bankston decided to open his mind to new ways of doing things. That is when he discovered Music Maker, a computer program that enables students to listen to music lessons, as well as receive general vocal and instrument instruction. They can then record their own attempt at what they learned, and eventually be tested on their ability to perform it.
Gadsden City Schools purchased the Music Maker program, and Paul Edmondson, Fine Arts Director at Gadsden City High School, says it is being used in all middle schools and at GCHS. “It doesn’t replace face-to-face interaction between the student and instructor, but it is a wonderful way to keep the learning process going when we aren’t able to be face-to-face,” said Edmondson.
Edmondson said “Art on a Cart” is being utilized for elementary-aged students. All supplies and instruments are on a rolling cart, which the teacher brings to the students. This keeps traffic in the hallways down since students aren’t moving to art or music class, and allows the teacher to ensure that all supplies are sanitized when they get to the students.
For both virtual and in-school participants, being open-minded and willing to embrace new ways of doing things is paying off for Gadsden City Schools fine arts students.
We Are Prepared: Synchronous Model Success
Teachers of Gadsden City Schools
Gadsden City High School AP History teacher Steven Fraser could never have imagined just a year ago that he would be standing in his classroom teaching to two audiences simultaneously this school year. Fraser is executing what is called the synchronous model of teaching, and like other teachers in our system, he is doing it successfully.
Fraser’s first audience is a group of students seated in the classroom like they have always been – only now they are all wearing masks and they are seated six feet apart. The other audience is a group of virtual students, some of whom may or may not be attending class in their pajamas. Although the virtual students may be able to dress a little more comfortably, they are expected to participate and engage in the class just like their in-the-classroom counterparts.
“In the classroom, I refer to them as ‘our virtual family,’ and they are present on screen to ask questions, join discussions, and be a part of the class just like the in-person students,” Fraser says. “I’ll be honest. It is challenging sometimes. As a teacher, it is energizing for the students to be right there in front of you. You can see the light turn on when they ‘get’ something.” Fraser is emphasizing to all his students, though, that flexibility and communication are key in being successful this year. “I just tell them they have to be responsible to do what is required of them, and if something isn’t working or they aren’t getting something, they have to communicate that to me,” he says.
We Are Committed: Safety and Support Are Top Priorities
Administrators of Gadsden City Schools
According to Gadsden City Schools Superintendent Tony Reddick, approximately 63% of the system’s student population decided to come back to campus when in-person learning became available late September. That means up to 37% of students have opted for virtual learning. Reddick says the main goal has been to ensure the safety of the on-campus students and to provide as much support as possible to students (both in-person and virtual) and teachers in order to ensure a successful school year.
According to Reddick, the system has worked to provide internet access to students, and some have received a mifi — a small, portable device that gives off a wifi signal. “As far as we know, no students are without access,” Reddick said.
The system is also continuing to provide free lunches to any student in need. Free tutoring is being provided as well by select teachers who are available during after-school hours to assist students in their subject areas. This is available to both in-person students and to those virtual students who may not be comfortable being back in the full school setting but may feel more secure coming on campus after school. These students may be working one-on-one with a teacher or even in a smaller group tutoring session of 3 to 4 students.
“We are focused on our students’ safety and well-being, and we are committed to supporting them in every way we can,” says Reddick.