‘It’s really refreshing for me’: Spokane students head back to school full time

SPOKANE, Wash. – Tens of thousands of students at Spokane Public Schools are roaming hallways again. Thursday was the first day of school and they’re heading back in during another pandemic year.

Hallways were full of chatter Thursday morning at On Track Academy. Students were welcomed back into a brand new building.

Kids this year get to go back to class full time instead of starting fully online like they did last year.

“I feel like it’s really refreshing for me. Junior year was really hard doing everything virtual,” said senior Izabella Naone-Perry. “So, going into a new school, especially as nice as this one, is really nice. It’s comforting because we’re the first people here and we can treat it nicely.”

On Track Academy is a school for students in grades 10 to 12. Amanda St. Pierre, the career and college readiness coordinator for the school, says students who attend On Track are there because the traditional high school experience wasn’t for them.

Class sizes are smaller, so students have more one-on-one time with teachers than at a regular school.

On Track Academy has been operating out of portables and now they get to be in a new building this year.

“It’s crazy. We have been in the portables for so many years that it’s – getting a new building is awesome. I think we’ve done a really good job of building relationships with students in these little tiny spaces,” St. Pierre said. “Now, we have this big beautiful space where they get to spread their wings a little bit.”

Students get to spread their wings while learning full-time again this year. Elementary and middle school students went back every day by the end of the last school year. High schoolers ended up staying on the hybrid schedule, having switch from learning at home to school.

“A lot of people’s mental health, including mine, went down once we couldn’t meet with people, we couldn’t see them. It was just a struggle for everyone, including me,” Naone-Perry said.

Teachers need to be with their students, too, St. Pierre said. It’s easier for them to help students learn in person rather than on a screen. Both St. Pierre and Naone-Perry said they’d all rather be together even with masks and physical distancing than be at home.

“People worry about their kids not wanting to wear masks, and I just haven’t seen a lot of that as an educator. The kids are just happy to not be in their bedroom, sitting in front of a computer,” St. Pierre said. “They’re happy to be here with us, whatever that looks like, Most of them are just willing to do what they need to do.”

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