Spokane teachers update wills to prepare for school year

SPOKANE, Wash.– As summer draws to an end, back-to-school season begins for Spokane teachers Tom and Gina Rye.

“Usually in August, we’re just kind of really getting our mindset and looking at a few new things we’re going to add in,” Gina said.

Tom teaches math at Ferris High School and Gina teaches math at Chase Middle School. They’ve spent a lifetime helping students learn.

“Been doing it for 28 years. I love it,” Tom said.

In all that time, they’ve never made preparations like the ones they’re putting together this summer.

“When you go into teaching, it’s a joyful thing. You’re going to be working with kids and when you come out, you think, I’m going to be changing the world and making a difference,” Gina said. “And now we’re talking about writing wills for ourselves.”

It’s more than talk for the Ryes. They recently had their wills updated. They got the idea when their friends, who are also teachers in another district, had their wills drawn up.

“It’s troubling. It’s emotionally draining. It’s stressful,” Tom said. “And for me, at least personally, the most stressful part is it doesn’t seem absolutely necessary.”

That’s because Tom and Gina believe online learning this fall is a viable and safe option for everyone.

But, early plans for Spokane Public Schools (SPS) include K-4 students going to school daily. Students in fifth and sixth grade will likely go to school on an alternating schedule to provide adequate spacing, according to SPS. The district said secondary students will also go to school on an alternating schedule. Families not comfortable having their students return to in-person classes will be able to register for distance learning, according to SPS.

Even with a hybrid model for middle and high school, the Ryes estimated that they’ll come in contact with 150 students each week. They worry about the virus spreading between students, teachers and families.

“If you can get your child online, we really can do this. We want to do this,” Gina said.

The two teachers say online classes will be more evolved than what students saw last spring. In fact, the state requires it. But, even last spring, the Ryes saw success from a system that was less than ideal. They have high hopes for the new way of online learning this fall.

“We still did really well on the AP tests and every kid who went for college credit got it,” Tom said. “So virtual learning can work. It is different. It is unique. It is a change for people, but it’s a viable option.”

While the Ryes wait for the first day of school, they’ll continue planning for life and death.educ

“I don’t want one more person to be sick or to die, not one,” Gina said. “It’s not worth one of my kids for us to go back.”

SPS will hold an informational webinar Thursday for parents who want to hear more about distance learning. That starts at 6:30. Learn more here.

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