Chehalis First Grade Students Returning to Classrooms Four Days a Week Starting April 26

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Falling in line with kindergarteners, first-graders in the Chehalis School District will return to four days of in-person instruction beginning Monday, April 26, in preparation for the return of all students for a full-time, face-to-face model come fall.

The announcement was made in a newsletter published Friday. Other grades will remain on a hybrid model for now, the district says, though that could change before the end of the school year.

The district, like many across the state, is preparing staff and curriculum for a complete return to in-person learning this fall.

“Our goal has always been to return as soon and as safe as possible, and the primary reason we can bring kindergarten and first grade back is (because of) the number of students in those grades,” district spokesperson Andy Lynch said in a statement.

About 180 Chehalis first-graders are expected to make the move to four days a week.

The Chehalis School District was one of the largest districts to begin returning students to the physical classroom when it began the process last October, Lynch said. This next step marks another milestone in the district’s reopening effort.

Reduced enrollment matched with updated guidance released last month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying students can maintain a reduced 3-feet social distancing, when wearing masks, has allowed Chehalis to jumpstart this effort.

Students are now allowed to be distanced 3 feet in the classroom, according to the district’s newsletter. The 6-foot rule will still apply in the physical education class, band and choir rooms, between staff members and teachers, and in common areas and lunchrooms.

Masks, heightened cleaning efforts, increased sanitizing and handwashing will remain in place.

Chehalis schools first introduced the four-day model to kindergartens last month after nearly five months of the hybrid A/B learning model.

“It is super important — particularly for our youngest learners — to be in-person at a maximum amount of time as possible,” said Chehalis Superintendent Dr. Christine Moloney in a video recently published by the school district.

If more grades are able to make the shift to four days, the district says it plans on communicating that intent to families, parents and staff. But the district faces serious challenges with space, curriculum and resources that could hinder the possibility of more students coming back in a safe manner.

The Chehalis School District says it’s “desperate for more drivers and substitute drivers,” and additional staffing and student supervision will likely be needed as more students return back to the classroom.

Schedules and curriculum may also see substantial change to accomodate CDC guidelines and requirements from the state. The district says it might also look into purchasing more furniture, such as desks and tables, to meet the needs of students returning.

Starting Monday, public school districts in Washington state are required to offer K-12 students a hybrid option that includes two days of in-person instruction on campus. The requirement stems from an emergency proclamation signed last month by Gov. Jay Inslee in response to growing education inequalities, and many school districts have already pivoted to meet the proclamation.

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