Spokane Public Schools have returned to in-person learning.

The past year has been a difficult one for students, parents and teachers as they attempted to navigate the world of online school or Zoom, to be specific.

This recent return to the classroom has some families excited and others nervous for an uncertain future.

Many younger students are more than pleased to return to an environment where learning is far easier, more interactive and less distracting than online learning.

Although students are largely excited to return to in-person learning, there are some discrepancies.

Newly required COVID-19 protocols and confusion around hybrid scheduling makes school very difficult for many students and teachers. Some of these protocols include required social distancing in classrooms and around the schoolyard, as well as mask mandates and regular sanitization.

The varying hybrid schedule requires students to attend school on specific days and hours. These are determined by students’ grade levels and cohort.

Phase 1 of Spokane Public Schools reopening includes classroom sizes of 15-20 students for third and fourth graders. Phase 2 includes alternating hybrid and in-person learning scheduled for fifth and sixth graders. While middle and high school students are Phase 3 of the plan, consisting of a similar alternating hybrid mode to that of the fifth and sixth graders. 

There are multiple considerations and health strategies that the school district put into motion before phasing in each grade level.

According to Spokane Public School’s website, some of these include Spokane County case trends, vaccine distribution status, school transmission trends, school based testing and compliance with labor and industry regulations.

The district has also implemented safety straggles such as rigorous sanitizing, contact tracing teams and a COVID-19 hotline.

“Since we have been able to return to in-person instruction, my students have been struggling to adjust to attending school with all of the protocols and hybrid scheduling,” student-teacher Malia Higdon said. “They have not been in an in-person school setting for about a year, so I am faced with reteaching curriculum, as well as how students are to behave in school amongst others.”

Many teachers are thrilled to finally see their students’ faces and talk with them in the classroom, as opposed to speaking to blank screens.

Many teachers complain about the process of having to teach both virtually and in-person this semester since some students have not returned to in-person learning.

 “[Teachers] have been trying to figure out ways to teach that will be both beneficial to students online and ones in person,” Lizzie Vosler, teacher at Spokane International Academy, said.

Many teachers have acted upon this through having classrooms where in-person students will also be on Zoom with the remote learners, in order for everyone to be able to communicate and speak with each other in the classroom.

GU announced on March 26 that campus will be opening in fall for in-person learning.  

“I would personally be very happy to see Gonzaga open back up next year. I trust that the university will make the right decision, and I’m glad to see the recent confidence on Gonzaga’s part,” said freshman Alex Ko.

Four days before GU announced its plans to return in the fall with in-person learning, Spokane County entered Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Roadmap To Recovery plan.

Spokane County has not determined when it will move into Phase 4. The county will need to stay under 200 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and a 7-day average of five or fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the Spokane Regional Health Department’s website.

Louis Summe is a staff writer.

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