‘I wasn’t surprised’: Families of Centennial Middle School students prepared for quick switch back to remote learning this week

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – Classrooms are empty on a school day at Centennial Middle School. Students are back to remote learning for a few days.

Superintendent Kyle Rydell said on Wednesday, 400 of its 570 students were absent, mostly because of quarantine protocols.

“It was just that tipping point that pushed us into really having to make a decision about what was better for our opportunity to serve our kids educationally,” Rydell said of moving to remote learning.

Rydell said just too many students had to go into quarantine for them to continue in person.

Whenever a classroom has three or more positive tests, the whole classroom needs to quarantine. Even with the test-to-stay program, Rydell said it wasn’t an option when so many students in many classrooms tested positive.

The district said on Tuesday, 89 students reported positive tests. That equates to even more students needing to quarantine, so it made sense to switch to remote learning.

“It’s never good to not see kids in school. I love seeing the halls at Centennial filled with kids, interacting with their teachers,” Rydell said. “Shifting to remote is not our first choice. It’s the engagement yesterday that really helped make our decision.”

Only 170 students went to class on Wednesday. That’s about one-third of the school population going to class.

Principal Karen Woolworth said moving to remote learning allowed students who feel well enough to participate in school instead of just sitting at home and doing it themselves.

“It’s a lot more equitable experience for these students to be able to log on from home, access their live teachers than just being in quarantine or isolation trying to keep up independently,” Woolworth said.

The district was able to make a quick switch, especially with its middle and high school students having Chromebooks already. They’ve also been working with Google classroom, so it makes the transition that much easier.

The district, and families, have learned a lot with online learning in the last two years.

“I wasn’t surprised when they went virtual,” added Sandra Schlecht, the grandmother of two Centennial Middle students. Her grandkids told her it was “really empty.”

She came to the middle school on Thursday to pick up food. The school still provided grab-and-go meals. Schlecht told 4 News Now the meals are helpful since she didn’t plan many this week with them back in school.

The district says it also has plans to bring food to students who can’t come pick up food.

“We know it’s important to feed our kids,” said Tyrone Hoard, the assistant principal of Centennial Middle School. The school says

Custodians are deep cleaning the school with students out of the building for a few days, Rydell said. Students should be back on Tuesday, once they all finish their quarantine process.

Hoard says students are “energetic” doing online learning right now, knowing they get to come back to in-person learning in just a few days.

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