Board to decide school reopening next month

Public health director supports in-person hybrid learning for grades K-5

One+teacher+is+worried+that+students+will+not+be+able+to+follow+safety+measures+like+social+distancing%2C+while+other+teachers+are+advocating+for+hybrid+learning+for+students.

ANISSA CHAK | DAILY EVERGREEN ILLUSTRATION

One teacher is worried that students will not be able to follow safety measures like social distancing, while other teachers are advocating for hybrid learning for students.

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter

Pullman Public School board members did not set a date for the reopening of grades K-5 during a board meeting on Wednesday, but expect to propose a start date during the next board meeting on Nov. 11. 

Schools will not open before Nov. 9, said Bob Maxwell, superintendent of Pullman Schools.

The board should wait until after winter break to consider reopening schools, said Nathan Roberts, board liaison for Kamiak Elementary. 

“My concern is that our schools are going to help spread [COVID-19] this winter,” Roberts said. 

Younger students do not spread the COVID-19 as much as older students do, said Troy Henderson, director of Whitman County Public Health. 

“I support in-person hybrid learning for K-5 in the Pullman school district,” he said.

The number of COVID-19 cases will likely be worse early next year than it is now, he said. 

Roberts said the possibility of the cases rising after winter is concerning.  

“What are we gaining by getting kids into classrooms for three or four weeks and then putting them back online again,” he said. 

Returning to in-person classes will allow students to have more positive interactions with their teachers than is possible over online classes, said Susan Weed, board liaison for Lincoln Middle School.

“Our kids now are lost,” she said. 

Teachers are still engaging their students, even over an online platform, Roberts said. He said he watches his children attend online classes every day, and they are still learning. 

Online schooling is not as bad as putting students and staff in a dangerous situation that they do not want to be in, he said. 

Now is the right time to begin hybrid classes, said Lonna Carrier, Franklin Elementary kindergarten teacher. 

In order to follow safety measures, Carrier said she is putting together school supply kits for each student. The kits include scissors, crayons and extra pencils. 

But Jill Brockmier, Kamiak Elementary first grade teacher, disagreed saying now is not the right time to begin hybrid classes.

“The benefits must outweigh the risk, and right out I cannot see how the benefits would outweigh the risk,” she said. 

She said she is worried about students adequately following safety measures like social distancing. 

“They show that they care about each other by hugging each other, holding hands and sometimes just bonking on the head,” she said. 

The lack of physical interaction with other students will have a huge impact on their mental health, she said. Because of the safety restrictions, students will not be able to do what they do naturally. 

Some students are in the daycare system, so they are used to wearing masks on a consistent basis, Brockmier said. But other students will need to get used to wearing masks. This puts teachers in the position where they have to make sure masks are being worn 

“I’m a teacher, not the overseer,” she said. “You’re asking us to do something that is not intuitive and is not what we work towards in the classroom.”

Brockmier said she has built very good relationships with her students while doing distance learning.

“I have built a positive climate with them, they seem happy,” she said.