TACOMA, Wash. - One of Washington’s largest school districts announced plans for full-time, in-person learning for the 2021-2022 academic year. Tacoma Public Schools said it will welcome all students back to the classroom this fall five days a week.
"We know there is a lot of pent-up energy and a lot of frustration among families who have had to change their routines, not just in Tacoma, but across the state as we’ve coped with the pandemic. And we’re hoping we can help people get back to some normalcy. We know a lot of people set their family schedules around school, that’s just a fact of life. So, as much as we can get back to having school hours the same as they were, having athletics and other afterschool activities available to people, before and after childcare—all those things will help our families and help our students do better as well," said Dan Voelpel, the district’s executive director of communications.
The district currently has kindergarten through second grade students in class following a hybrid model with some in-person instruction and remote learning. Voelpel said TPS continues working closely with local and state health departments, as well as the governor’s office and state superintendent on plans for next year.
"We’ll be able to have kids three feet apart in the classrooms in the fall. So we’re remeasuring all of our spaces for that. Students, at this point in time, still have to wear masks in the classroom. We’ll see what happens by fall," said Voelpel.
For the last 14 months, Celva Boon and her husband have juggled remote learning schedules for their four children.
"It’s given us a lot more time as a family, but has been a struggle trying to coordinate everybody’s schedules, trying to keep up with all of the different technologies so that I knew if they turned their homework in, what grade they were getting, what they needed to do in order to participate," said Boon.
The mother of four won’t have to log on much longer now that TPS is planning full-time in-person instruction this fall. Boon will have two sons attending Lincoln High School while another enters middle school. She said she purposely held her daughter back from kindergarten this year for a reason.
"I want her to have that actual experience, that social-emotional ability to interact with kids. And I know they’re still going to have their masks and I know it’s not going to look the same as it normally did, but I just want them to be in person," said Boon.
Families not yet ready to return to class still have options. TPS will continue its Tacoma Online program next year. Voelpel explained the district is turning the remote learning program into a stand-alone school for any student, no matter if they’re enrolled in TPS or not. He said Tacoma Online already has about 1,300 students registered for fall semester.
Registration is open for the 2021-2022 school year for all students in Pre-K through 12th grade. All enrollment applications are available online.
Boon said her children understand the classroom settings will be different from what they familiar with. She said her family is just happy they will be able to go back.
"I actually work at a college, so education is a really important thing to me. And I want my kids to take this experience of working and being in school during a pandemic and look at what they can do to take those lessons and apply them now in person," said Boon.
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