No cafeterias, alternating high school schedules: Spokane Schools working through back-to-school plans

Inside an elementary school preparing for fall classes

SPOKANE, Wash – No matter what, next year will be different.

That’s the key line in the notes from a the Spokane Schools Safe School Reopening Task Force meeting held Thursday in Spokane.

The leadership steering committee is one of several groups meeting to plan what the return to school might look like this fall. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction previously laid out guidelines of what will be required of schools when students return, including that students and staff wear masks throughout the day.

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The group hopes to have a plan in place by August 12th.

According to the meeting notes, the school district is working on classroom set-ups and models to determine how to safely distance students in the classroom. The district has done mock-ups and determined they could have 21 students in a classroom with three to six feet between the desks.

The Safety and Operations Committee recommends that cubbies and lockers aren’t used as a way to minimize shared surfaces and also increase classroom space. The committee suggests students keep supplies in their backpacks at their desks.

The district has studied cafeteria space and has come to the conclusion that cafeterias aren’t feasible for lunches because they can’t space kids far enough apart. Students would instead eat in their classrooms where the safe distances are already established. Nutrition services is looking into a bagged lunch model, according to the meeting notes.

Elementary Schools

The district is looking at several models for elementary school education this fall, ranging from smaller class sizes to rotating schedules for older students (4-6 grades.) They’re also considering using specialists (art, music, gym, science, etc.) as classroom teachers. They could also shorten the school day and/or have more combo classes.

All of this would have to be negotiated with the teachers’ union.

The Elementary Education Committee has been leaning towards Model A (max class size of 21 for K-6, using specialists as classroom teachers) and Model E (filling all classes to 21 by blending grades as necessary, which will create combo classes.) The committee said there is concern from specialists about becoming classroom teachers and also concerns about combo classes.

The team acknowledged there are pros and cons with each model being considered.

Secondary Education

The biggest issue with secondary education is the sheer number of students and deciding how to get them safely in the building while maintaining safe social distance.

The committee is leaning towards an A/B rotation model, which would have one group of students attending school Mondays and Wednesdays, the other attending on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The group would alternate Fridays.

Extracurriculars

The committee notes it’s “eagerly awaiting” a decision regarding fall sports. That decision is expected from the WIAA on July 21st.

What’s Next

The school district continues to study all aspects of a return to school. The goal is to create a plan that’s adopted by the school board and presented to the state superintendent two weeks before the scheduled start of school on September 3rd.

You can read more about what the district is considering and also share your ideas and input at this link.

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