EUGENE — With enrollment near an all-time high at O’Hara Catholic School, one of the largest challenges in planning for a return to the building for the 2020-21 school year was mapping physical space and scheduling 507 students and more than 50 staff members in the safest, most efficient way possible, in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the state. 

One adaptation of many this school year is that teachers, instead of students, travel throughout the building. This change presented a particular challenge for art and music classes that traditionally rely on a wide range of supplies conveniently at hand in their specialized classrooms. 

Determined to adapt and unwilling to compromise or cut specialist curriculum, Principal Tammy Conway called on music teacher Kathryn Leonard, and art co-teachers, Julie Fulton and Shauna Scott to reinvent. The result? Traveling carts, reimagined lesson plans and creativity delivered to classrooms five days a week.

In music class, singing and recorders have been replaced by sets of desk-size electric pianos, ukuleles, rhythm kits and instruments that are easy to transport and sanitize. Art curriculum is focusing on drawing and collage projects that have simpler supply lists but are educational, fun and engaging. 

Teachers agree; the hardest part — designing new curriculum and lesson plans under entirely new parameters — is behind them. Now, nearly five months into the school year, they are enjoying the best part: sharing in the joy of the students’ experience.

“There’s no substitute for seeing their faces and connecting with them in person, so even if it has been hard, it is worth it,” said Leonard. Fulton, primary art teacher, concurs.

“I love seeing my students’ happy faces when I come rolling into their classroom.”