GRAHAM, Wash. - Thousands of kids in the South Sound spent their first day back to school from home. Officials hoped lessons learned from the spring might make for an easier start this fall.
“It’s really, really eerie,” said Cougar Mountain Middle School teacher Zachary Womack.
It’s the first time in sixteen years Womak is teaching a full class from an empty room.
“You’re not in your safe place anymore. It’s uncomfortable,” he said.
Approximately 650 kids used to walk the halls inside the middle school but not this year.
“The normal side-by-side coaching that we can give them it’s really difficult from a distance,” said Principal Brittany Corpuz.
Patty Ward planning for Thursday’s return to school for weeks for three children.
“My teacher is trying to make a great relationship with me so he sent me a postcard talking about how the year is going to go,” said 10-year-old Kole.
“We’re only on day one so I’ve aced today,” said Patty.
The Bethel School District says it equipped all their students with iPads or laptops and teachers chose a hybrid of instructing from home or on campus. The entire school day had to be rethought for both kids and teachers.
“They’re used to being the person to fully deliver the lessons and asking them to shift that to allow the curriculum to do the teaching and the step by step stuff,” said Corpuz. “The other side of that is all the technical pieces.”
Administrators say building meaningful connections between kids and teachers is vital for success.
“I made a pretty quick friendship because we were partners and we had a lot of common,” said 13-year-old Kaleb Ward.
The Ward family mostly studied apart from each other and in different rooms. Kaleb said some lessons work better in person than others over video.
“I think humanities is going to be hard,” said Kaleb.
This year both students and teachers share steep learning curves. And even if the first day of school begins separated, success is dependent on working together.
“They cannot wait until they can all be back here with kids,” said Corpuz. “That’s the most important thing.”