PIERCE COUNTY - Elementary students in the Bethel School District are positioned to begin a phased reopening plan in mid to late October.
While a date is yet to be determined, students in the Pre-K to second grade will be in the first group to begin in-person hybrid learning on an A/B schedule. A week after that, third through fifth grade students would join them, switching from virtual learning to the hybrid model.
“We’re proud of what we’ve done, but there’s no question we can take it to the next level and do much better things for our students when we have them here in person,” said Kelley Boynton, Executive Director for Elementary Schools.
Boynton said the district is following safety and health guidance from the State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
He said both offices provide a set of principles to build towards which fall into the categories of social distancing, ensuring people who are displaying symptoms stay out of the building, detecting symptoms in students, disinfecting, cohorting and using protective equipment.
That guidance is being practiced in the Bethel School District at Clover Creek Elementary, where dozens of families have come to rely on a childcare program called, Right at School.
“We do a curbside pickup. It kind of helps the families as well. We meet the parents at their car. We perform a health screen. If the kiddos are safe to come in, the staff members will take them inside to get them situated for their learning for the day,” said Sarah Gore, Area Manager for Right at School.
Gore said staff members support students in social distancing and remote learning. She said there’s widespread concern over face covering adherence in the younger age group, but that students have been following face covering guidance.
“Naturally they gravitate to each other, but it’s been very successful. Kiddos are getting their work done. They’re staying on top of their schedule. They’ve been getting outside for some physical activity as well,” said Gore.
Principal Sara Olson of Clover Creek Elementary said the risks are being reduced as much as possible for the well-being of her staff and students.
“There are many aspects of my job that bring me joy,” said Olson. “The biggest is those ah-ha moments we have with kids on a daily basis where we see the learning has connected with them.”
The Bethel School District is sending surveys to elementary families this week to gather input on moving back to in-person hybrid learning.