Spokane’s two largest school districts have begun preparations to bring kindergarten students back to school the week after next.
The districts acted quickly after Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz announced he supports the immediate, but slow reopening of schools for children in kindergarten through second grade. He talked about that with reporters today [Thursday].
“Although our community incidence rate has gone up over the last few weeks, we believe, based upon our own data as well as experiences, both nationally and internationally, that this age group represents a population where in-person learning, while a risk, nonetheless is a very small risk and one that we have to balance with the importance of in-person learning," Lutz said.
Central Valley will initially split students into two groups. The first group will attend Monday, October 5 with seven or eight students per classroom. The second group will attend Tuesday the sixth. Then, all of the kindergartners will attend on Wednesday and Thursday before taking Friday off. The Spokane School District will welcome all kindergarten students back to school on Wednesday, October 7.
Spokane Superintendent Adam Swinyard acknowledges it will be a challenge for teachers to convince energetic students to follow the strict health guidelines. But he says much of the instruction during kindergarten is about teaching acceptable behavior.
“They’ll have to teach some new expectations and some new practices and some new behaviors. That certainly layers on some additional challenge but, in a very similar way to other expectations we have around safety, wearing masks and social distancing will be something new that we work with those students around,” Swinyard said.
Both districts plan to hold webinars next week for parents of kindergarten students, Spokane on Tuesday evening, CV on Wednesday. CV Superintendent Ben Small says the district will provide transportation for kids, but encourage parents to bring their children to school.
"We’re going to discourage, at this point in time, sending kindergarteners in groups to school walking because we need to make sure they’re socially distancing through that process," Small said.
Both superintendents say their districts will monitor the kindergarten attendance and consult with Lutz before deciding when to open first grade to in-person instruction.