After a two-month hiatus from their classrooms, Sequim’s elementary grade level students are headed back to in-person instruction starting next week.
Sequim School District leaders got a view of the plan for reopening classrooms for youths in grades kindergarten-fifth grade Monday night, with interim superintendent Jane Pryne giving an overview of a plan that puts students back in Greywolf and Helen Haller buildings starting Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Elementary school students return to class on a hybrid AA/BB model the district implemented at the beginning of the year, with half of students at a grade level attending class Mondays and Tuesdays, the other half on Thursdays and Fridays, and teachers using Wednesdays to further assist remote learners.
“Even though we (still) have COVID and we consider that very serious, it’s time to bring back our students in a hybrid model,” Pryne said.
Middle school students will return to classes using a similar model, with a tentative date set for Feb. 16. High school students would return to class starting Monday, March 1, also using the hybrid model.
Dates for older students to return are feasible only if coronavirus rates stay stable or go down, Pryne said.
“It will be nice when the staff will be in line to get vaccines,” she said, but had no set date for staff to get vaccinated.
Sequim started to reintroduce elementary school students to in-person learning in the fall of 2020, first with kindergartners and first-graders and eventually up to fifth grade, before a spike in coronavirus cases in the area moved school leaders to close schools and revert to a remote learning model on Nov. 25.
Pryne said the school buildings have the safety protocols in place to host in-person instruction and learned a good deal about how effective those practices are after several weeks of “live” instruction this past fall.
Students and staff will still have to wear masks, wash their hands and observe physical distancing, she said.
The district is having breakfast and lunch meals served in classrooms (rather than in large common areas) with hand-washing/sanitizing taking place just before those meals. Students can bring their two-layer cloth masks and hand sanitizer to school but they will be provided, district officials said. Water fountains have been turned off as a safety precaution.
“If we don’t follow through (and outbreak occurs), we will have to shut down again,” Pryne said.
“This will only work if we follow all of the protocols,” Sequim School Board president Brandino Gibson said.
One change being made, she noted, is that classes will start at 9:15 a.m. Teachers will use the first hour of the day — 8:15-9:15 a.m. to assist students who are learning remotely, Pryne said.
School bus pick-up times shift to one hour later as well, the district noted.
Pryne said the plan was the collaboration of school district staff, board members, leaders from the Sequim Education Association (Sequim’s local teachers union) and others, including Clallam County health officer Dr. Allison Berry.
“We have really asked for a lot of input,” Pryne said.
The Sequim administrator said the district will not ask staff to come back to work if they feel their health is in jeopardy.
“Our students have not mingled in class for a while (or have been) seeing their friends; I’m looking forward to that,” Gibson said.