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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Start the year the way we ought to’: First day of kindergarten at Hutton Elementary kicks off with the strange excitement of normalcy

Sept. 7, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 7, 2022 at 7:36 p.m.

Hutton Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sarah Malm, left, instructs her new students to follow her lead and march into the classroom Wednesday on the first day of kindergarten in Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Hutton Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sarah Malm, left, instructs her new students to follow her lead and march into the classroom Wednesday on the first day of kindergarten in Spokane. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

Wednesday morning was picture-perfect for the first day of kindergarten at Hutton Elementary School, and sure enough, families snapped hundreds of them with their cell phones.

They also chatted with friends and exchanged hugs.

When the signal went up for the little ones to walk to class, though, everyone was ready to move on – from summer and especially from the pandemic.

“We’re pretty excited for school to be back in session and back to routine,” said Maggie Stewart as she stood with husband Kirk and their daughter Elle.

“And we’re definitely glad to be back in person,” Maggie Stewart said. “And no masks; we’ll see how long that lasts.”

But on Wednesday there wasn’t a mask in sight, a sign that things were getting back to normal for the first time in 21/2 years.

A few feet away, Principal LaTonya Simmons was coordinating the kindergartners and looking forward to getting back – and catching up.

“I’m happy that many of the things we weren’t able to do (during the pandemic) that we will now be able to do,” said Simmons, who welcomed first- through sixth-graders back to school on Tuesday.

“Kids are kids are getting to experience that,” Simmons said.

Charlie Bean waits in arms of his father, Ryan Bean, as students gather Wednesday outside Hutton Elementary School for the first day of kindergarten.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Charlie Bean waits in arms of his father, Ryan Bean, as students gather Wednesday outside Hutton Elementary School for the first day of kindergarten. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Simmons acknowledged that students also experienced some learning losses but said that kids did learn – “they really did.”

Nearby stood Nina Danielson and her son Leif, a large backpack strapped to his shoulders and brand-new Spiderman shoes on his feet.

“It’s my first time in school. I’m happy,” Leif said. Mom was happy too, and not crying because “I still have two more at home so the shock won’t hit me just yet.”

Soon the teachers appeared to lead their students to their classrooms, a process that was made easier this year because Spokane Public Schools is bringing starting kindergartners to school in rotation.

That meant teacher Sarah Malm had just 10 students on Wednesday, with the others due on Thursday. The rotation period will end on Monday, with full classes beginning the next day.

The district’s guidelines for kindergarten instruction are flexible. Its website notes that teachers are “eager to help your child have a fun, positive start to school.”

In Malm’s class, that meant a sit-down session on a mat as projected images flashed in front of the students.

With Malm’s patient guidance, the kids unzipped backpacks and pulled out folders, ready to get down to business. That is everyone, except for one child who opted to hide under his desk for a while.

Next door, teacher Amy Iverson sang to her students as she led them to a mat – who could say no to that?

“I just love these kids – the joy they bring to the classroom, the curiosity and the wonder,” Iverson said.

“This is going to be a really special year for all us: to start the year the way we ought to,” Iverson said.

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