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News >  Spokane

Spokane Public School teachers prepare to say goodbye to students, ensure learning at home

UPDATED: Sun., March 15, 2020

Regal Elementary second grade teacher Kristin Lentz consolidates Ziploc bags of books, each bag tailored to the student's reading level, in advance of the "last" day of school before Spokane Public Schools close for coronavirus on Sunday, March 15, 2020. "We're here for the students, they are why we do what we do," Lentz said, explaining why teachers were busy at work on a Sunday. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Regal Elementary second grade teacher Kristin Lentz consolidates Ziploc bags of books, each bag tailored to the student's reading level, in advance of the "last" day of school before Spokane Public Schools close for coronavirus on Sunday, March 15, 2020. "We're here for the students, they are why we do what we do," Lentz said, explaining why teachers were busy at work on a Sunday. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

As the teachers gathered in the library at Regal Elementary School on Sunday afternoon, they knew one thing: There is no manual for this.

There is no handbook to help them deal with the sudden closure of their school for at least six weeks.

There is no syllabus for how to keep learning alive amid the dark uncertainties of the coronavirus outbreak, no details on how the needy will be fed and nurtured during a national crisis.

Worse, there is almost no time to react.

Principal Patricia Kannberg got the news on Friday that Gov. Jay Inslee had ordered the closure of every state school by Tuesday.

“This is rapidly evolving, but the one thing the Regal staff is exceptional at is being flexible,” Kannberg told her teachers, who spent much of the weekend bending over backwards to make Tuesday the best day possible for roughly 500 students.

Like their colleagues across the county and the state, they assembled packets, lesson plans and other materials.

At Regal, the “suggested learning” instructions are printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper – a “tech” side for students with internet capability and “no tech” side for those without.

Much of Sunday’s work was focused on bridging that digital divide, which is especially acute in the low-income neighborhood that surrounds Regal.

Details are still being fine-tuned, but teachers will use software, email and their telephones to stay in touch.

“The biggest challenge is making sure that kids have everything they need, and for us to somewhat monitor them,” said third-grade teacher Holly McClanahan.

“The district has done a fantastic job of setting us up,” said McClanahan, who added she wants the educational experience “to be equal for everyone.”

For a Regal third-grader, “Suggested Learning” for those without internet includes 45 minutes of daily reading, a written narrative or story, work toward fluency in multiplication, work in science notebooks, physical education exercises, and lessons in social studies and music.

The lesson plans will vary by teacher, said Kannberg and her staff. They also are expected to evolve during the next six weeks.

That won’t happen on Tuesday, however.

“I think tomorrow. we focus on the students and rally and support them and give them the tools they need at home,” McClanahan said.

“For some of them, coming to school is their favorite thing to do. We want to make sure that they can continue that at home regardless of what home looks like, and letting them know that we’re still here.”

One of the biggest fears is some students will experience another “summer slide,” an annual regression of learning after 10 weeks away from school.

With the closure of state schools for at least six weeks, there could be a double dip of learning loss.

Across town, Moran Prairie teacher Karrie Brown said Saturday the biggest challenge is “how we do not allow a big loss to occur. … Our biggest concern is the loss of all the hard work the kids have done the whole school year.”

Back at Regal, Kannberg worried about something else.

Near the end of her discussion with teachers, Kannberg recalled waking up on Saturday “in the midst of all this planning and realizing the fact that I’m not going to see these students … and that I won’t see you.

“That’s hard to swallow.”

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