Spokane third graders head back to school for the first time in 10 months

SPOKANE, Wash. — The sounds of children screaming and laughing could be heard on the playgrounds of Adams Elementary Wednesday afternoon.

It was the sound of pure joy as students get to play with each other at recess again.

Inside Lisele Corneil’s third grade class, one student was heard gasping.

“You see a pattern?” Corniel asked her student about a math assignment about multiplication, the student now understanding what they see.

These are all the sounds teachers have been missing for nearly a year. It’s not the same on a computer screen.

“That was probably the hardest thing, not having that really close interaction, really being able to see them do their work and see what they’re doing,” Corneil said of virtual learning.

She said it went better than expected, but it still wasn’t easy.

Regardless, they made it through and were all reunited Wednesday. Corneil said she saw a few students over the course of the fall semester, but there are some she hasn’t seen at all.

“It has been a delight to see them all. It’s exciting. As I say to folks, ‘It’s the first day of school all over again,'” said Beth Nye, the principal of Adams Elementary.

Kindergarten through second grade have been back in class since at least November. The district recently announced the phasing in of all students by March 1. However, the dates are tentative for grades five through 12.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Spokane Public Schools details plans to bring students back, with 3rd graders returning Jan. 20

School looks different for kids from what they’ve known.

There is a lot of handwashing, sanitizing and masks are worn all day. Desks are also spaced apart now and class sizes are limited to about 20 students.

“Of course, all the safety procedures we have to do to keep the kids healthy and safe in the building. It takes a lot of work and extra attention that we have to do that if we want to keep our schools open,” Nye said.

With a pandemic, many have learned that things can change quickly.

Corneil hoped she’d have her students back in class by the end of the year, but she didn’t want to expect too much.

“I really wanted to see them in person because that’s the best way we can teach and the best way students can learn,” she said, going on to talk about virtual learning. “Having to have patience, having to be grateful for what we had.”

When Spokane Public Schools brings students back, it phases students in slowly. On Wednesday, half of third graders attended class while the other half learns from home. On Thursday, it’ll be switched. All third graders should be back in class together on February 2nd.

The next step for the district is to phase 4th graders back in. That’ll start on February 3rd.