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Schools to begin phased reopening

Lake Roosevelt Schools will begin the process of re-opening in-person education next week, some eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic closed all schools in Washington state.

Beginning Monday, students in the Grand Coulee Dam School District will begin going to physical school again, starting in phases organized by grade levels.

The school board Monday night approved for students from kindergarten through second grade to begin school.

Superintendent Paul Turner explained new guidelines from local health districts about a phased approach to returning to in-person learning, with groups of grades returning three weeks apart to physical school.

Kindergarten through second-grade students will begin going to physical school first. Three weeks later, the board discussed, possibly third through sixth grade will return on the elementary side of Lake Roosevelt, along with ninth through 12th grade on the high school side. Three weeks later, seventh- and eighth-grade students would return.  

Students in kindergarten through second grade will go to school for four half days, Monday through Thursday. Fridays will serve as a deep cleaning day for the school and a planning day for the teachers.

Turner said the numbers seemed to work out for half the K-2 students to ride the bus to the school in the mornings, and the other half of the students who can walk or be driven to school will attend in the second half of the school day.

After speaking with teachers, Turner said, it was decided that it would be better for K-2 students to come in four half-days a week, rather than two full days, which had been the plan. 

It hasn’t been decided what the older groups would do yet, but Turner described high school as being so different, with seven periods of classes, that it might be easier for students to do two full days a week, rather than four half days.

Students will continue with distance learning from home while not at the school. 

A single teacher will provide the online distance learning for K-2 students not ready to return to physical school yet.

Speaking to The Star over the phone on Monday, Turner said that staff members called parents of K-2 students to see if they would send their children back to physical school. He said about 15 said their students would not be coming back to physical school the rest of the year but would continue with an online curriculum.

Others who aren’t ready yet for the return to physical school would be able to opt back into the physical school at the beginning of the second semester in late January. 

Asked what would happen if they wanted to return later than that, such as March or April, Turner said the district hasn’t discussed that yet.

“It’s hard for us to keep shifting around,” he said, adding that at some point they need to set something of a deadline.

At the school board meeting, board directors had a lengthy discussion with Turner, asking many questions related to the many ramifications of returning to school, such as transportation (Turner said they’re ready), what happens if a student is sick (the same protocol established earlier), COVID-19 numbers, and much more. 

Board members discussed wanting to prioritize high school students, especially seniors, wanting them to return to school sooner than later, and taking priority over seventh- and eighth-graders, who attend in the same wing of the building.

Turner told the board that elementary teachers were ready for K-2 to return. He said staff had spoken with the parents, and the plan was in place for those students to return, which gave the board confidence in approving the return.

In the next few weeks, Turner said, conversations with the rest of the staff and parents will give rise to solid numbers for the other grades such as how many students will come back or continue with distance learning. He said a plan for the next grades to return could be established before Nov. 9, the date the board had originally wanted the return to physical school to begin.


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