Schools to reopen Jan. 4 for K-1 students

Around 250 high school students are failing, others experiencing depression

The+Pullman+Public+Schools+board+decided+to+begin+in-person+classes+early+next+year+for+some+students.

SCREENSHOT FROM MEETING

The Pullman Public Schools board decided to begin in-person classes early next year for some students.

JENAE LAXSON, Evergreen reporter

Pullman Public Schools board voted for in-person classes to begin Jan. 4 for students K-1.

Students’ social and emotional needs must be addressed, said Allison Munch-Rotolo, board liaison for Sunnyside Elementary, during a Pullman Public Schools board meeting on Wednesday.

High schoolers are failing classes and experiencing severe depression, said Susan Weed, Pullman Public Schools board president.

“Parents are afraid for their children, and I do not know how to solve it,” she said. “Kids are social beings, and they are shriveling into themselves.”

Nathan Roberts, board liaison for Kamiak Elementary, said in-person classes should resume when it is safe, and the board should wait for Whitman County Public Health’s metric.

The metric will likely be released next week, he said. The metric is the ratio of people who tested positive for COVID-19 versus the total population within a given amount of time.

The metric will issue updated guidelines schools should follow when reopening, said Chris Skidmore, interim head of the Whitman County Health Department.

There is a chance a surge in positive COVID-19 cases will happen during the winter season, he said. The schools’ official start date should not be determined until the metric has been released.

“We have 393 students who are suffering in elementary school,” Weed said. “We have 250 failing high schoolers.”

Jim Evermann, board liaison for Franklin Elementary, said there should be adequate COVID-19 testing when in-person classes resume. There should also be sufficient substitute teachers and weekly updates on the schools’ conditions.

It will be difficult to determine the number of substitute teachers needed until in-person classes begin, said Superintendent Bob Maxwell.

Older students should return to in-person classes if the return of kindergarteners and first graders is successful, Munch-Rotolo said.

She said there should be a second motion for groups of 10 or fewer students in higher grades to return to school.