‘I was counting the days’: 5th and 6th graders return to class on hybrid schedule

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s a long-awaited day for students, parents and teachers. Thousands of 5th and 6th grade students are learning face-to-face again.

“I’m actually really happy that I’m back. When I was virtual, I got distracted a lot,” Radley Sahagian said laughing.

Fifth grader Radley isn’t the only student who went through that. Instead, there were possible distractions in the classroom on Wednesday.

It took 337 days for all Spokane Public Schools elementary students to be back in class.

Even though it’s not the same as it once was, they’re all still happy it’s happening.

Being in school, regardless of age, many kids often count the minutes to the end of the school day. But after 11 months away from their classrooms, 6th grader Cash Olson couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“I was counting the days. Once it got close enough, the minutes,” he told 4 News Now about waiting until the first day back.

It’s been about 485,000 minutes since Cash left Jefferson Elementary last march. He couldn’t wait to sit behind a desk again in front of his teacher.

“It feels really good. I’ve been missing it and I like going back because online, it’s sort of harder to do stuff and hang out with your friends. But, in-person it’s a little bit easier,” he said.

Teachers, too, weren’t exactly sure they’d ever see kids back in their rooms before the end of the school year.

“We were just online and virtual for so long, I kind of thought, ‘Oh, we’re just going to have the year be virtual. We’re just going to end this way,'” said Sara Talley, a 6th grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary.

Wednesday was well worth the wait after a tough year adapting to virtual learning.

“You can’t replace in-person learning,” said Diana Janachek, a 5th grade teacher at Jefferson.

“When I was in virtual, I got bored easy, even though Mrs Janachek tried to make it fun,” Radley added. “But, it was still pretty boring. That’s another reason why I’m happy to be back.”

There was excitement in the air, classrooms filled, rather than empty, and chatter in the hallways of Jefferson Elementary with all grades back in-person again.

It is a little different, with spaced desks, masks and constant sanitizing. The kids did notice the differences, but were nonetheless happy to be back.

“We were all just so joyful and to see kind of the smile on their eyes, even behind the mask, you can see the smiles and excitement in their eyes,” Talley said.

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Fifth and sixth graders won’t be at school every day. Instead, it will be on a hybrid schedule and will remain that way for the rest of the school year.

Two groups will be alternating between in-person school and online learning.

“I sort of like it, but not as much as being full-time,” Cash said.

On the days when one group is learning from home, teachers will assign work for those students. Both Talley and Janachek say they will be have virtual meetings with those students and have them on the screen with the in-person group to be altogether.

“I do think the hybrid learning will be another learning curve. So, we’ll see. But I’m hopeful it’s going to be great,” Janachek added.

The hybrid learning model is one they’ll have to adapt to and take with open arms for the time-being as they all wait for things to go back to normal.

“I think it’s going to be OK to keep everybody safe, but I think I’m going to get used to it,” Radley said.

The next step for the district is bringing back middle and high school students. It’s still at tentative plan to bring them back on March 1.

The district will also be holding a webinar for 7th and 8th grade students on Monday. Click here to learn more.

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