Many parents and teachers expressed their desire for kindergarten through first-grade students to return to in-person instruction sooner than Jan. 4 in a Pullman School Board meeting Thursday.
In its meeting on Nov. 4, the board voted that kindergartners and first graders would start in-person classes on Jan. 4.
Parent Fred Lionetti wants the school district to give families a choice between in-person learning and online learning.
“It’s time to provide an option for all kids who have lost all the life in their eyes,” teacher Annie McKeirnan said. “It’s time to support parents who are feeling helpless and forgotten.”
Parent Lacey Casqueiro said she lost faith in the Pullman School District to act in her children’s best interest, so she enrolled them in a Colfax elementary school with three days of in-person school a week.
Elizabeth Quinley, a teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School, spoke on behalf of the kindergarten and first-grade teachers at Sunnyside. She, along with several others, is advocating for the district to start in-person learning on Nov. 30 instead of in January.
“The push and pull of online learning is taxing for teachers and leaves little fulfillment within our jobs,” she said.
Quinley stressed the mental health effects of online learning and said she is fearful for the students at Sunnyside.
“Based on a data search engine at Sunnyside, we have learned that students in our school are Google searching ‘How to kill myself,’” Quinley said.
Meg Gollnick, outdoor learning lab and garden chair for Jefferson and Kamiak elementary schools, supports the January reopening. She said even though she wants her children back in school, she wants schools to reopen in a safe manner.
“It’s not our kids that die from this,” Gollnick said. “It’s everyone else.”
Several community members urged the board to revote and move up the start date for in-person learning for kindergartners through first graders.
The school board also approved the 2020-21 school improvement plan and discussed the potential purchase of a 60-acre site for the district’s future needs. Funds would come from the capital projects funds account, which can only be used for building or purchasing property. The district is not asking for any additional funds, said Bob Maxwell, Pullman School District superintendent.
The school board will vote on purchasing the property during its next meeting, he said.