Tacoma kindergarten students prepare for return to in-person classes on Tuesday

Kindergarten students are gearing up for their first day of in-person classroom instruction in the South Sound this year.

Tuesday is the big day for Tacoma Schools where up to 15 kids will be allowed into each classroom. Students will spend two days on campus each week while distance learning from home for the others.

Families in Tacoma have been rolling with the punches since last spring, but new state health guidelines are more flexible. As long as new COVID-19 infection rates do not surpass thresholds detailed by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), younger students are returning to public school campuses.

"I’m really nervous about COVID-19," said parent Anna Izenman.

Her son could see his first day inside a classroom come Tuesday, but Izenman and other parents wonder if the rest of the school year should remain in a distance learning model until a vaccine is more widely available.

The President of the Tacoma Education Association (TEA) shared similar concerns for public school employees who may not get the vaccine as early as other populations.

"Many of our educators have not had access to the vaccine," said TEA President Shannon Ergun, adding some vaccines might not be available until April.

Izenman said Tuesday’s move could be positive for kids. Making sure everyone remains healthy and children have access to in-person instruction are important considerations, but success requires our entire community to strive to keep infection rates low.

"You just have to trust they’re going to bring healthy students into a classroom," she said.

After kindergarten students are scheduled to begin in-person instruction on Tuesday, preschoolers will follow suit later on Jan. 25.

First and second-grade students are slated to make a similar return to campus later in February.