Things are moving in the right direction at Central Valley High School.
On the floor of every sparkling-clean hallway, bright blue signs point the way to class, the cafeteria and even to the office of Principal Kerri Ames.
But mostly they represent the path back to normalcy after 10 months of distance learning, false hopes and lost opportunities.
Literally and in every sense, the first steps will be taken Monday morning, when several hundred students will walk the halls they haven’t seen in almost a year.
“I can’t wait,” Ames said. “Monday is going to be fantastic.”
It will certainly be something new, at least this year.
Several other districts that began the year with distance learning only, notably West Valley and Cheney, also will be moving forward with some form of in-person instruction for all grade levels.
Spokane Public Schools is planning to move to a hybrid format for all secondary students, tentatively on March 1.
Central Valley School District also began with distance learning only, bringing students back in baby steps, kindergartners up to sixth grade.
Now it’s time for the great leap forward, a chance for everyone else – seventh grade through 12th – to pick up where they left off when school was suddenly closed last March by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ten months,” Ames said with a shake of her head at the abrupt shutdown. “We put on ‘Little Mermaid,’ and that made it only two nights.”
“Ebbs and flows,” Ames called it: the ragged retreat to distance learning, the steep learning curve for teachers and students, and a sanitized senior graduation.
Then came the summer of high hopes – “that we would at least start the year in a hybrid,” Ames said – followed by the late-summer COVID spike and the district’s decision to “follow the science” and begin the year with distance learning only.
But through it all, Ames said she was constantly uplifted by the district’s support for distance learning, and the professionalism of the teachers and staff.
On top of that, student leaders were able to raise $15,000 for charity, despite the constraints of the times.
But those times are about to change. Beginning Monday, students will be back in classes – one-quarter of them at a time, which means each student must still learn remotely four days a week.
That’s not enough for some critics, who feel that Central Valley and Spokane Public Schools haven’t moved quickly enough in the six weeks since Gov. Jay Inslee encouraged them to quicken the pace.
Some of them stood outside Central Valley High School last week, chanting “We want more!” – that is, more days in class.
Others took to social media, accusing Central Valley and Spokane Public Schools of bringing back students to encourage a “yes” vote on the upcoming replacement levies.
However, Ames said that the sheer size of the CVHS student body – at 2,300, it’s the largest in Spokane County – that forces the issue.
“But I think we can get there on March 1 once we get everybody trained,” Ames said.
The training has already commenced, with webinars for students and families, extensive communication through email and phone, and even a live freshman orientation on Tuesday that drew 400.
A new routine will also begin next week.
When students arrive on Monday, each student will line up (with masks and proper social distancing) to enter the school.
They will present their signed attestation ticket to the staff member checking kids in and have their temperature taken. If students have no symptoms or fever, they will head straight to class.
On the way, they will reach the cafeteria, around which is a one-way path of arrows – “like a traffic roundabout,” Ames said. “Once they reach the hall, they can peel off and head to class.”
If a student shows a temperature of 99.4 or above, he/she will head to a secondary screening station. At the secondary station, students will wait to ensure their body temperature is regulated properly and then be checked again.
If there is still an elevated temperature, then parents/guardians/emergency contacts will be called to take their child home.
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