Teachers prepare for students’ return in another pandemic school year

SPOKANE, Wash. – Tens of thousands of Spokane Public Schools students will be sitting in class Thursday, learning during a pandemic again. Students and staff will enter their third pandemic school year.

Like families, teachers had to adapt to COVID-19. This year is no different, but things will feel just a tad more normal this time around.

Jake Pernsteiner’s fifth-grade classroom is ready to welcome students back five days a week. He’s happy to have full-time in-person learning because online and hybrid were not easy to work through.

“It’s just one day at a time. Even though you had to plan for weeks out, it was a lot of work to actually plan for the digital days,” Pernsteiner said.

In the more than 20 years Mike Birch has been in education, the last year was the hardest for him. Birch is a brand new teacher at Garry Middle School and came from Oregon.

“It was difficult in the sense of trying to support students and families, but also support fellow teachers and they support me,” Birch said. “It was definitely my most difficult year.”

Teachers had to juggle between different groups during hybrid learning and made sure students had assignments on their off days.

“I spent more time prepping that than I do for in-person,” Pernsteiner said.

He said he’s happy he won’t have to do that this year. Pernsteiner said he’s ready for the school year, feeling a little more relieved. Students’ desks are assigned and Pernsteiner has masks available for kids who may forget theirs.

Pernsteiner said his students were great with masks last year, knowing that they’d rather deal with all the restrictions so they can be in class again.

“I feel like the need and the want to be around their friends and teachers and our school community far outweighs being at home,” he said.

School lessons are planned out a few weeks in advance. While kids get to be back in class full time now, Pernsteiner knows things could change in an instant with COVID-19.

He’s just focusing on what he can now, and that’s welcoming his students back tomorrow.

“We’re here, we’re at it again. Just to be patient with one another,” Pernsteiner said. “I know parents and families, it can be frustrating. our stamina is wearing thin, but try to keep in mind, everyone wants what’s best for their kids. That’s the bottom line.”

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