“It was the best day ever!”
These were the words of a kindergartner after attending his first on campus school day. We definitely feel the same way. It was great to start in-person learning for K-2 students on Jan. 28.
The good news in our battle against COVID-19 is that transmission rates and test positivity rates are coming down with that trend spanning several weeks.
Conditions are such where public health officials recommend increasing in-person learning for all students, starting with our youngest learners. The data behind the recommendation shows that schools have been successful in remaining disciplined to protective measures of daily screening, masks, physical distance of 6 feet or more, hygiene, cleaning and strong contract tracing, and thus lowering the spread of the virus.
We are very excited to increase the number of students at our schools each day, but we are going to remain vigilant to our safety practices.
Our hybrid learning model is not a return to normal school, but it is a strong step in the right direction.
Here are the key points and dates in reopening timeline:
• K-2 students began their hybrid schedule on Jan. 28.
• Grades 3-5 students are scheduled to begin hybrid schedules on Feb. 18.
• Middle school students are scheduled to begin hybrid on March 1.
• High school students will begin hybrid on March 15 if case transmission rates have dropped to 200 cases per 100,000 population or below.
• The revised high school athletic schedule began Feb. 1. Contests can begin as long as our county/region stays in Phase 2.
It is important to note that hybrid learning is not a two days on, three days off approach. Teachers are planning a learning cycle of five full days and the on-campus time is designed to complement the at home plan.
During their at home days, students have access to teacher office hours, support staff, counselors and learning materials to help them meet academic standards.
We will continue to support families that do not have internet service.
Our first days of hybrid learning resulted in many positives. It is clear that students do enjoy coming to school. One of our first graders said he was so excited because, “I get to go to school again.”
Bringing more students back to school is both an exciting and daunting task.
We will do it right.
Our success goes a long way toward increasing student in-person time, and eventually a full schedule.
In impatient times, we will progress with staff and student safety in mind. Please note that our buses are on the roads every day, so we ask that drivers slow down near bus stops and areas where students are walking or bicycling to school.
Brian Wharton is the superintendent of Yelm Community Schools.