PUYALLUP, Wash. - Despite coronavirus still spreading in communities in Washington, one school district is preparing to reopen schools and classrooms. Starting Tuesday, Puyallup School District is welcoming children, teachers and staff back to schools in a phased reopening.
Sarah Gillispie, the district’s director of communications, said a safe reopening has been in the works since July. After extensive planning, the district decided on a hybrid-learning model. The district provided a detailed phased reopening plan on its website.
“There is no substitute for in-person learning. But we have a shared responsibility to work together to do that safely for staff and students,” said Gillispie.
Starting Septembers 29th, special education and developmental preschool students will be in class four days a week. On October 6th, kindergarten and first graders will back four days a week. On October 13th, second through sixth grade will have class two days a week on alternating schedules. All grades will work in small groups and will stay in their assigned socially distant classroom for the whole day. Mondays will host remote learning for everyone.
“We have the option for parents to remain in a full-time remote learning model at home in the event they’re not ready to return their child back to school,” said Gillispie.
The district says it’s planning to bring back middle school and high school students no sooner than November 3rd. Those students will also return to a hybrid model for two days a week on alternating schedules.
Students must complete daily health screenings before going to school and wear a mask. Teachers are required to wear face coverings--Gillispie further explained enhanced PPE is available for teachers and staff out of an abundance of caution. The requirements are just some of the guidelines for reopening schools set by the Washington State Department of Health and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“Our direction is taken from state agencies and the k-12 guidance for schools has been evaluated and incredibly dissected by district staff as we reviewed what additional health and safety protocols we needed to have in place for staff and students,” said Gillispie.
OPSI said its reopening guidance is specific to K-12 public and private schools. The state superintendent said districts that chose to resume in-person need to get approval from the local school board and health department first.
Several parents throughout the Puyallup School District said they are eager to get their children back into some form of classroom setting.
“My kids are excited to be back at school. They know it’s going to look a little bit different, but they’re willing to give it a try,” said Jeanette Bean, mother of three. “The part they’re most disappointed about is not being able to be close with their friends and play with their friends. But at least being able to see them will be a nice change.”
Bean is also the Dessie Evans Elementary School PTA president. She has a child in seventh grade, second grade and preschool. She said remote learning has presented some challenges.
“It’s different when your mom asks you to do something than when you’re teacher asks you,” said Bean. “The teachers have been doing a really great job at keeping the kids focused and on track. And I’m Just excited to see that carried back over into the classroom.”
OSPI and DOH collaborated on guidelines to reopen schools. The guidelines are available online.