GIG HARBOR, Wash. - Parents in Gig Harbor have been dealing with some stressful yo-yoing when it comes to their children’s schooling. But the latest change in plans is what many have been hoping for.
Less than a week after the Peninsula School District announced kindergarteners and first graders would have to return to distance learning, the district said today that those kids can stay in the classroom.
For single mother Andrea Wheeler and her four children, COVID turned their world upside down. Wheeler, who was in school herself, had to put that on hold to help her four kids, one of whom is special needs, with distance learning.
She’s also been laid off and is facing unemployment soon running out.
“I just don’t know how a single parent in expected to juggle it all. I really depend on the school system.”
Unable to get a nanny or tutors, she’s doing it all herself, which is why her kindergartener and first grader getting to go back to a school a month ago was a game changer.
“Having them back to in-person learning was a huge stress relief. My older two children were finally able to get some of my attention, which was huge,” Says Wheeler.
Last Friday the Peninsula School District announced those students would have to go back to remote learning per the health department’s recommendation.
“It was completely heartbreaking,” says Wheeler.
But today, the district is saying students get to stay on campus.
This comes with the announcement the district will partake in a pilot program with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department involving rapid testing for COVID.
“Hopefully if we could do it for professional athletes we could do it for our youngest learners,” says John Hellwich, assistant superintendent for the Peninsula School District.
The district says there’s still a lot of unknowns on how it would work and how often children would be tested. Parents like Wheeler are thrilled their kids get to stay in school, but the concept of rapid testing is a bit daunting.
“This is not a normal way of growing up…I guess it’s similar to how my son talks about playing at recess 6 feet apart, and that’s become normal to him. Maybe being tested for something is going to become the new normal too,” says Wheeler.
At the end of the day, she says if rapid COVID testing is what’s needed to have her kids in school, so be it.
“I've dealt with so many tears, so many tears because they are so lonely and they desire that structure that school gives them," Wheeler says.
A spokesperson for the Peninsula School District says no matter what ends up happening with the pilot program, as plans are still in preliminary stages, they’re just happy the health department is working with them to help keep kids at school and safe.
The district plans to welcome back 2nd graders on campus on November 12th. The Pierce County Health Department says they’re exploring the rapid COVID testing pilot with rural districts for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
If you're one of the countless parents struggling with remote learning and Covid-related closures, join Q13's Education Destination Facebook group to connect with other parents and resources.