Most kids attending class in the Rainier School District should be on a hybrid, in-person learning model by late January — at least, that’s the hope for district leaders.
Thanks to the recent loosening of state guidelines for returning kids to school, Rainier hopes to start K-3, high school and middle school students on a hybrid learning schedule in which only half the student population will be on campus at a time, starting Jan. 26.
Students in the fourth and fifth grades will return Jan. 28.
At 930 students, the Rainier School District is one of the smallest in Thurston County and, with a new pilot testing program in place, is perhaps one of the most well-equipped at the moment to partly return to in-person instruction.
A small number of students who spoke with the Nisqually Valley News this past week said they’re largely looking forward to returning to classes — with hopes of seeing their friends.
Ethan Gonzales, 16, a junior at Rainier High School, said it has definitely been difficult to wrap his head around subject concepts during the shortened time frame they’re under during remote learning. Classes at RHS are condensed, and students usually get out about noon.
“I feel like it’s just harder this year because you don’t have that hour and you don’t have the opportunity for a teacher to go into it with you and go over it fully,” Gonzales said.
He’s currently taking advanced placement history, chemistry, pre-calculus, physical education, English 101 and 102. Gonzales said some of the classes he has been taking are online through Ellensburg-based Central Washington University.
Being able to practice with his baseball and football team right now, though, has been a saving grace.
“If we weren’t able to do any sports, I can’t even imagine how frustrating it would be to not have social interactions and just stay home… I can imagine what kids with no sports are going through,” he said.
A positive aspect of online learning at Rainier, Gonzales said, is that he’s had more time to do homework. Regularly, he’d be strapped for time and said he would often find himself juggling homework assignments around dinner time.
Michael Green, 18, a senior at RHS, said the last few months of learning online only haven’t been bad. He said he thinks the flexibility on assignments and the ability to go at their own pace has benefitted him.
“Teachers are out there helping, ‘cause they know it’s hard for everyone,” he said, adding later: “I’d say it’s about the same, though it’s unfortunate to not see other people. You kind of lose motivation not seeing people.”
One thing that’s been missing is the ability to meet face-to-face with teachers and go over assignments. That, Green said, just can’t be recreated over Zoom.
“You can’t pick up on the cues of people’s movements. It’s just different,” said Green, who is also hoping that they bring back regional sports competitions.
Green added subjects that are simple, and not as complex, have benefitted from an online curriculum, though he admits he’s had to pay more attention during classes such as Spanish 2, which requires a reserve of known material that’s picked up throughout the year.