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News >  K-12 education

Local school districts start classes this week with different COVID-19 plans in place

As Deer Park Superintendent Travis Hanson toured schools last week, he wasn’t reviewing lesson plans.

Instead, Hanson was checking one the morale of teachers, parents and students, all of whom will began an uncertain journey on Tuesday morning.

So far, so good.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the last couple of days, just with the amount of positive energy and the positive outlook,” said Hanson, who chatted with families during conferences.

“This has proven to be a great decision,” Hanson said of the conferences. “To connect with people to give them a glimpse of what school would look like.”

They will get an eyeful on Tuesday. Other districts will be watching as well, to see what goes right and wrong.

Under a hybrid learning model, Deer Park and neighboring Riverside will be the first districts in Spokane County to bring students back into classrooms. Idaho districts Post Falls and Lakeland will be doing the same.

Meanwhile, Cheney kick off the year Tuesday with distance learning only.

“I think we’re doing well,” Superintendent Robert Roettger said Friday. However, the district still doesn’t have enough laptops to go around despite having ordered them months ago.

Like other districts, Cheney is waiting for the state superintendent’s office to finalize the details of how to distribute $8 million in federal CARES funding for wireless hotspots.

“We’ll figure it out,” Roettger said.

Most important, Roettger said he’s convinced Cheney has done the right thing by starting with distance learning.

“Most definitely,” said Roettger, whose district will be joined on Wednesday by Central Valley and West Valley, both of which are starting with distance learning.

Medical Lake will also begin the school year with distance learning only, though like Cheney will soon allow in-person learning for special-needs children and those lacking connectivity at home.

Most of the attention on Tuesday will be focused on schools that are beginning with hybrid or full in-person learning models.

The most controversial is at Lakeland, where the school board voted on Aug. 28 to return to in-school instructions five days a week, with masks optional.

Neighboring Coeur d’Alene will begin the year on Sept. 14 with a hybrid model, but Post Falls will go first on Tuesday.

“Preparations are going very well,” Post Falls Superintendent Dena Naccarato said Friday.

However, Naccarato said that “outside entities,” including the media, will not be allowed inside buildings for now.

Lakeland officials did not respond to numerous requests for media access to buildings, even though the district will not be requiring masks for students.

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