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School's out for summer! End of school wraps up unprecedented year for teachers and students

Duval and Clay County students' last day of school is June 3.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It’s the last day of school for students in Duval and Clay counties! After the bell rings Thursday, we are going to hear one big collective sigh of relief. 

This year has been nothing but hurdles, one after another, for our students and especially our teachers.

A lot of the learning happened off the pages of the textbooks as teachers navigated masks, virtual classes and contact tracing. For some, this has been their hardest year of teaching.

“This. I am not going to miss this," says Stacie Dern, referring to wearing a mask in the classroom. She's a teacher at Landmark Middle School.

“I’m definitely welcoming the break," says Donna Pulito, a teacher at DePaul School. "I think this is my most-needed summer.”

Pulito teaches 5th grade at the DePaul School, for students with dyslexia. She says teaching students with learning disabilities is another hurdle on top of masks and virtual learning.

“It’s for sure my passion. I wouldn’t stop teaching," Pulito said. "I mean I would not have this year again but it doesn’t make me feel like I don’t want to be a teacher or anything like that.”

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Universities and the federal government are trying to study the impact of the pandemic on teachers and students. Some studies show the pandemic will impact not only their progress in school but also their mental health. Teachers like Marcia Medders had to get creative to reach students this year.

You may remember the song she created with another teacher to muster up courage from students and parents. 

“We’ve learned how to teach in different ways that maybe we wouldn’t have known before," Medders says. "The kids have learned in different ways. It’s been restraining in a lot of ways but in a lot of ways we have grown.”

Teachers like Dern spoke out when they were fearful of COVID-19 spreading in schools, forcing them to go above and beyond what their normal teacher responsibilities are.

“I’m glad it’s over but I am looking forward to next year," Dern says. "A little bit of normalcy that is going to come along with it.”

Duval, St Johns, and Nassau to name a few are making masks optional for the upcoming school year and while some districts are offering virtual options, it won’t be the same one offered in 2020. 

This week many students will be walking at graduation, something that many students missed out on last year.

RELATED: DCPS outdoor graduations scheduled for Thursday, Friday moved to 9 a.m.

RELATED: High school valedictorian goes viral after switching out speech to target new Texas abortion law

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