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Smiles, a red carpet and no masks: Mead schools kick off a new year

Aug. 30, 2022 Updated Tue., Aug. 30, 2022 at 10:10 p.m.

Skyline Elementary second-grader Milana Glass gets a kiss from her mother, Alissa, during a red carpet walk Tuesday on the first day of the Mead district school on Five MIle Prairie.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Skyline Elementary second-grader Milana Glass gets a kiss from her mother, Alissa, during a red carpet walk Tuesday on the first day of the Mead district school on Five MIle Prairie. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

The first day of school is always full of mixed emotions. Except at Skyline Elementary School.

Tuesday dawned sunny and warm on the Five Mile Prairie, but kids had no choice but to say goodbye to summer vacation.

And yet there were no long faces – especially when Principal Erik Olson and his staff literally rolled out the red carpet and welcomed them back to class.

“We welcome you, we love you, we are glad you are here,” Olson told hundreds of students, many of them clutching the hands of mom or dad.

A few minutes later, they moved with gusto to the red carpet and a high-five from Olson, now in his second year with the Mead School District.

Almost every child had a smile on their face as they greeted teachers and staff.

“These kids, look how happy they are,” Olson said seeing the last student into the hallway. “They know summer is gone, but now they’re back in school and they love it.”

Parents and teachers saw another reason for optimism: the apparent end of COVID-19 prevention measures. Skyline opened without a mask in sight, which for Olson and other administrators means “one less thing on our plate.”

“Now we can get down to business,” Olson said.

The Mead and East Valley school districts were the first in Spokane County to get back to business. Cheney, Deer Park, Freeman and Riverside will start on Wednesday, and most of the rest will open next week.

The region’s largest district, Spokane Public Schools, will begin class next Tuesday – the same day as the larger Kootenai County districts, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Lakeland.

West Valley will follow on Sept. 7 and Central Valley the day after that.

The post-COVID optimism filled the hallways and classrooms.

“I would say it feels like the most normal year for the last few years,” said English teacher Kara Hock, who like her colleagues has dealt with the pandemic since March 2020.

Down the hall, kindergarten teacher Tracy Jordan stood in an empty room; her kids don’t start until next week. She can’t wait.

“They don’t get any cuter than kindergartners,” said Jordan, a teacher for 22 years.

A few feet away, the Lennon family gathered for a special first day of school.

Father John Lennon, a major in the United States Air Force, stood in the middle of the hall with his wife, Suwanee, and their children, fourth-grader Lincoln and second-grader Shiloh.

Lennon’s duties at Fairchild Air Force Base have taken him around the world, and always during the first day of school. Until Tuesday.

“It’s a great feeling,” Lennon said as Lincoln leaned into him.

“I never had this opportunity before,” Lennon said. “It’s fun to be here with family.”

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