Pullman school district to start courses with distance learning

Classes begin Aug. 26; instruction to be synchronous, asynchronous



Pullman Public Schools begin instruction Aug. 26 via distance delivery. Classes will be synchronous and asynchronous.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

Pullman Public Schools is moving to a distance-learning format for the start of the school year on Aug. 26, following a recommendation from the Whitman County Public Health Department. 

The Whitman County Health Department will support hybrid learning or in-person learning for the school district if COVID-19 case numbers decrease and Whitman County has fewer than 75 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, said Troy Henderson, director of the Whitman County Public Health Department.

Whitman County has 50,000 people, including students in higher education, so the county would need fewer than 38 new cases in the previous two weeks, Henderson said.

The district is designing a plan to reopen schools by using input from the health department, said Bob Maxwell, Pullman Public Schools superintendent.

“What we want to make sure that we do not do is bounce back and forth from being in distance learning, being in person, having to stop being in person, go back to distance learning,” Maxwell said. “We want to make sure when the numbers come down that they’re staying down.”

Distance learning for Pullman Public Schools will include synchronous and asynchronous aspects. Electives will still be offered. There will be scheduled time for office hours and drop-in help, he said.

Counselors will have daily office hours to support students. In the first two weeks of school, the district will focus on social-emotional well-being by working with staff and students to establish support, he said.

When in-person classes ended in the spring, the school district had a short turnaround to plan for distance learning, Maxwell said.

“Given two to three days to try to plan and put together a whole new way to teach was very, very difficult,” he said. “That was the most difficult issue, switching from in-person to distance learning.”

Throughout spring, the school district improved in addressing students’ and parents’ needs. The district learned not to use multiple learning platforms and to send fewer emails, Maxwell said. There are now set days and times for communicating with parents.

Teachers are being trained to better understand the learning management systems they will use: Seesaw and Google Classroom. Students in kindergarten through second grade will use Seesaw while students from third through 12th grade will use Google Classroom. Teachers are receiving training so classes on Zoom or Google Meet are more interactive, Maxwell said.

Chromebooks have been given to students who need them, and there will be another distribution time today, he said. Families can get an internet hot spot if they are eligible.

Breakfast and lunch will be distributed to students who qualify for the district’s free nutrition program. The district is also working on an ordering and distribution system so students can buy meals.

More information can be found on Pullman Public Schools’ website