Central Valley third graders transition to in-person learning

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — It’s a day teachers and students have been waiting for! Third grade Central Valley students have started phasing back to in-person learning.

On Thursday, half of the students went back to school. Liberty Lake Elementary is for third to fifth grade students, so today was extra special for the third graders.

“I’m so happy to see them,” said Stephanie Morkert, a third grade teacher at Liberty Lake Elementary. “Our students left March 13th — our last official day of school so it’s been eight months since they’ve been back so it’s been difficult.”

Before students can come to school, parents have to fill out a COVID-19 symptom check form and take their child’s temperature. Once that’s done, they’ll be greeted by a friendly face.

“You can just see the smile and the light in their eyes, even from the valet line with the masks,” said Jen Tesky, the school’s principal. “They were just thrilled.”

Once students head to the classroom, they’ll see experience some changes.

“We have hand washing before and after lunch, before and after recess,” Morkert explained. “The desks get wiped down after lunch and again at the end of the day. The students are wearing masks except for when they’re eating.”

Desks are spaced six feet apart and the hallway is divided into two to keep social distancing measures in place.

“In my whole career I’ve never had anything like this so this is what we do is with the kids so it’s nice to be back with them,” Morkert said.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, people identified as close contacts will quarantine. If there are multiple positive cases in a classroom, the entire class will quarantine for 14 days. Students will go back to virtual learning during that time.

The district has a COVID-19 dashboard on its website, showing positive cases and close contacts. It’s categorized by external and internal cases per school.

“I think that it is extremely important that we have all of our kids back here so that we can continue to love on them. Help them grow,” Tesky said. “Work on academics and make sure that they’re ready for the next grade level.”

All in all, they’re just happy to see the smiling faces, even if most of it is covered by a mask.

“We have missed you so much and we’re so excited to see our third graders and we cannot wait to have the rest of our building back,” Tesky said.

The other half of the third graders will go to school on Friday. All third grade students will be in the classroom next Monday.

READ: Parents protest against Pullman schools for delaying in-person learning

READ: Local schools scrambling for substitute teachers as COVID-19 cases rise among staff