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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Kindergartners return to classes at Central Valley

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 5, 2020

Call them baby steps, but the kindergartners at Broadway Elementary School took a giant step forward Monday morning.

Even the sun was shining – a literal and figurative light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel where families have lived since March.

The occasion was the first day of in-person teaching for the youngest learners in the Central Valley School District.

That this was happening in October mattered less than the fact it was happening at all. Kindergartners at Spokane Public Schools will get their chance on Wednesday.

Clifford Gilbert’s car was the first in the drop-off lane. As he pulled up, daughter Gabey sat up and offered a confident smile.

“I think she’s ready to get in there,” said Gilbert, who also has a fifth-grader and a first-grader at home. “The distance learning has been most difficult with her – it’s hard to be on computers for several hours a day.”

The Gilbert family could get another bonus in two weeks, district spokesperson Marla Nunberg said.

Central Valley officials meet every Monday with representatives from the Spokane Regional Health District, assessing the chances of adding more students to in-person learning the following week.

If all goes well, Nunberg said, first-graders could return to buildings on Oct. 19.

But Monday belonged to the kindergartners.

In the next car, Rhianna Schimcek confessed to mixed feelings as her daughter prepared to leave.

“She’s so excited,” Schimcek said. “It has been nice having them at home, but I’m eager for them to go back to school – I’m going to miss them.”

While most parents dropped off their children, one family went old school. Walking up to the building, they posed their daughter in front of the building, stifled tears and arrived at the entrance.

All were greeted with temperature checks from staffers, who directed them into the building.

As children bounded into the building, their excitement was matched by the staff.

Inside, Principal Lori Johnson felt confident she and her staff – backed by the district – had done everything possible to make the kindergartners’ return a safe one.

“Remote learning is a huge challenge,” said Johnson, who’s in her 26th year as a principal, the last 10 at Broadway.

The back-to-school planning was detailed, all the way down to how the pencils are sharpened, Johnson said.

Inside Julie Caffey’s classroom, the desks were distanced well beyond 6 feet, and no one will be sharing crayons or anything else.

“I’m very excited,” Caffrey said as she waited to see some real faces instead of virtual ones.

Distance learning, though, gave Caffrey and her colleague Linda Copley a chance to know their students’ quirks.

“(Kindergartners) need to touch things … many of those concepts are too abstract on a screen,” Copley said.

She was even more excited for the return of face-to-face learning.

“Kindergartners are just so much fun – you never know what’s going to come out of their mouths,” said Copley, a fifth-year teacher at Broadway.

Spokane Public Schools will bring kindergartners back beginning Wednesday.

Phasing will begin with an alternating schedule of groups attending school and then transition to all kindergarten students attending every day.

West Valley will bring kindergartners back to the classroom in a hybrid model beginning Thursday.

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