West Valley School District starts first day of school with ‘launch meetings’

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — The West Valley School District had its first day of school on Wednesday, however students won’t be learning just yet.

Students will be learning remotely this fall, but teachers are meeting with the teachers this week during what they call “launch meetings.”

In those in-person meetings, about 3,700 students and their parents will talk with teachers about technology among any other concerns. Students are also given their school supplies such as Chromebooks, a whiteboard and books needed for class.

“Do you notice anything, Liv?” Third Grade teacher Ali Jaklitsch asked her student in their meeting, as she opened up a folded cardboard display.

“It’s got my name on it,” Liv responded to her teacher, as she sat across from her the meeting. The cardboard display was made for all Orchard Center Elementary students. On it, there is a schedule, a place to find passwords and more.

Liv Donaldson said she is ready for school to start this year, even though it won’t be the traditional sense.

“It was really exciting,” Liv said about being back in the school building and seeing her teacher. “I’m very excited for school.”

Each family spent half an hour with their teachers in meetings at Orchard Center Elementary School, as did other schools across the district.

It’s a way to help families get connected and learn about the technology they’ll have to use. Parents and students were taught how to log-on to all the programs they’ll be using, and how they can contact the teacher.

District superintendent Kyle Rydell said the meetings are also meant to help them talk to families who may not have internet access.

“That’s what’s vital about the back-to-school launch meetings,” he said.

The district said it’s looking at a number of options to help with the internet connectivity issue for some families. They’re looking at purchasing some hot spots to give to families, or even have a “cafe style set-up” in the library, Rydell said.

Parents reported having issues with starting remote learning in a neighboring school districts. While learning doesn’t actually start until Monday, Rydell said the district and families will have to be patient when it comes to distance learning.

“We know that systems go down, Wifi goes down. The other day, power went out in several of the districts around us,” Rydell continued. “I think it’s just one of those things we’re going to have to be flexible.”

In the meantime, teachers will be doing both live and recorded versions of their lessons, too. He said it will also help families who need to go back through lessons to understand the work.

Liv’s mother Melanie was happy with how things went in the meeting.

“This year, you can tell there’s huge intentionality. Everyone has worked really hard to make things feel very organized,” Melanie said.

School will be full-time distance learning with a set schedule, which sounds like a lot of screen-time for students.  Jacklitsch says they will be taking plenty of breaks to help keep younger kids engaged with online learning.

“We’re building in a lot of things that are appropriate for each age level of child, so that they can get the most out of it without feeling overwhelmed,” Jacklitsch said.

The school district plans on bringing kids back in phases when the COVID-19 incidence rate is lower than 75 per 100,000 people.

“It’s a challenge, this is not, like I said, this is not the easiest start for many of us,” Rydell said. “But, we’re going to do it the way West Valley always does it, and that’s together.”

Although the Donaldson family only met Jacklitsch for only 30 minutes, Melanie said it made them feel better about the start of the year.

“I think there’s a sense of relief, just feeling like, it’s going to be OK. We’re going to make it through this time that’s challenging and we can connect with her teacher and school,” Melanie said.

Launch meetings will continue for the next few days. Remote learning will start on Monday.

RELATED: Central Valley School District begins virtual school year

RELATED: ‘We needed lots of extra hugs’: Central Valley families adjust to new way of learning

MORE: Send us your back to school photos!