In a school year dominated by learning online, more Clark County kids went offline Tuesday.
It wasn’t officially the first day of school, but students, parents and teachers still had that first-day feeling as area districts welcomed more younger learners back to the classroom Tuesday in a hybrid setting. Students are divided into cohorts for twice-a-week in-building class and in remote learning from home three days a week. Families also can choose to keep their children in full remote learning across all districts.
“It feels a little more normal,” said Bobbi Hite, principal of Evergreen Public Schools’ Crestline Elementary School. She and some of her staff welcomed about 60 kindergarten and first-grade students. “Compared to normally 500 (students), it definitely still feels small, but it feels like we’re moving in the right direction getting kids back to school.”
Hockinson and Washougal joined Woodland earlier this month in welcoming first-, second-, and third-grade students Tuesday to coincide with the latest state guidance for reopening schools. Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee loosened state guidelines to allow more districts to have students return to school in a phased-in approach based on a county’s COVID-19 cases.
Evergreen, the region’s largest district, had first-graders in the classroom for the first time since March when COVID-19 concerns shut schools down, in addition to expanding the number of kindergarten students in classes. Hite said Tuesday’s classroom focus was designated around getting students acclimated to new routines and structures, including safety protocols, such as social distancing and hand hygiene. Their new classroom setups include desks spaced 6 feet apart.
First-grader Joseph Munoz was “really excited” to be back at Crestline after a long 10 months since he last sat in his kindergarten classroom. He walked to school Tuesday with mom, Kelsi Wyatt, who also had reasons to be excited.
“I’m like, ‘yes, some peace and quiet,’ ” she said, laughing. Joseph’s sister was born in April — just weeks after schools shut down — when Joseph was in the final months of kindergarten. But getting Joseph back into the classroom is one step forward toward a fluid routine.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to normal,” Wyatt said.
Alberto and Rosa Martinez walked their first-grader, Isaac, to Crestline on Tuesday. Isaac is the second oldest of four children, and jabbered all morning before school about seeing classmates and friends in-person, according to Alberto Martinez.
“He’s pretty excited to be out of the house,” Alberto Martinez said. “Getting him out is good.”
More districts plan to have students return to class in a hybrid setting by grade level over the next several weeks. Evergreen and Vancouver will phase in all elementary students by Feb. 1. Battle Ground Public Schools also plans to have all four grades at its elementary schools arrive for hybrid learning Feb. 1.