Spokane Public Schools details plans to bring students back, with 3rd graders returning Jan. 20

SPOKANE, Wash. — Parents of Spokane students are finally getting some clarity on when their child will return to the classroom.

Currently, grades K-2 are back in the classroom at Spokane Public Schools. Board members detailed plans to bring more students back for in-person learning during a meeting Tuesday.

According to Superintendent Adam Swinyard, the district will focus on integrating students back in three phases, with phase 1 consisting of a safe return for third and fourth graders. Phase 1 will begin with third graders returning first on January 20, Swinyard said. Classes will be kept to roughly 15-20 students. Grade four could return two weeks after, on Feb. 3.

Phase 2 will consist of bringing fifth and sixth graders back, with both grades starting a hybrid model as soon as Feb. 17. Swinyard says these plans are still subject to change, but those are the tentative dates board members have begun to plan for.

Phase 3 will bring middle and high schoolers back. Students could start as soon as March 1, on a hybrid schedule.

The implementation of phases two and three depend on a number of factors:

  • In-school transmission trends
  • County COVID case trends
  • Fidelity of cleaning standards in schools
  • Substitute capacity
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School-based testing program

Since schools reopened back in October, SPS has seen a total of 152 people testing positive within the district. Of those cases, only seven have been linked to transmission within a school.

Additionally, Swinyard says school nurses are set to receive COVID-19 vaccinations this Friday. The district is also one of 10 chosen in the state to try out in-school testing. Swinyard says that could start as soon as next week.

The news of more grades returning for in-person instruction was welcoming for parent Neoma Geren. She did wish it happened sooner.\

Her two youngest kids are currently back in school.

“They’re enjoying it, they enjoy seeing friends and it’s a complete change from virtual learning,” she said.

Now, she’s just waiting for her 11th grader to head back. It hasn’t been easy for him learning from home.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking as a parent because they need to get so many credits, they need to cover so much information and it’s not happening like it should,” she said.

Again, the district wants to reiterate the dates for grades fifth through twelfth are tentative.

“All dates are tentative because the conditions continue to change. The conditions that we’ve had in October are very different than what we saw in December, and those are different than what we’ll see in the weeks and months ahead,” Swinyard said.

With the new plans announced, Geren hopes the district stays with them.

“You need to have a clear goal and stick to it, because I know other children are looking forward to it and say, ‘Hey this is my start date, I get to start on this date,’ and then the school goes, ‘Oh no, just kidding,’ and it’s devastating to them,” Geren said.

The school district will continue to update the school board at its monthly meetings. The next meeting is slated for January 13 starting at 7 p.m. To register to watch, click here.