Marysville School District began welcoming students back in kindergarten and first grade on Feb. 17 as the schools reopen.
Like most other school districts, Marysville officials were following recommendations of the Snohomish Health District to begin with the youngest students.
“These kindergarten and first grade students really need that in-person learning. Those years are really foundational to everything we do,” said Jason Thompson, Superintendent for the Marysville School District.
Younger students are also the least likely to be carriers of COVID-19.
“It’s gone extremely well. Everybody is excited to have the students back,” said Thompson. “This is the first time ever I’ve had a first day of school in February."
Families said they were glad to be back.
“It’s fantastic. This school has been absolutely great,” said Denise Keefe, who has a niece returning to Liberty Elementary.
Student Abbey Baker said her first day back was good and that she was “excited, excited, excited” to come back to in-person learning.
The district plans to return second and third grade students on March 8 and fourth and fifth grade students on March 22.
The plan for middle school and high school students is still being worked out.
“We don’t have a date but we are really starting to plan for that,” said Thompson.
He hopes secondary school students will be able to return before summer.
“If it was my call it will be before the end of the year,” he said, but added he still has to work with teachers, staff and the board of directors.
Elementary students are returning in a hybrid model so they are learning online part-time and learning in-person part-time.
Secondary school students will also be returning under that model.
A number of safety measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Every student has to have a weekly attestation that they haven’t been around anyone who has tested positive,” and that they don’t have any symptoms, said Thompson.
Staff perform temperature checks once students get off the bus or before they enter school if they took another form of transportation there.
Students stay six feet apart and class sizes are limited to only about seven to nine kids.
There is only one student in the bathroom at a time and lunch and recess are limited to one class so students don’t interact with others outside their group.
A number of safety guidelines are provided by several county and state agencies.
“We follow the guidelines of the State Department of Health, the Snohomish Health District, and Labor and Industries,” said Thompson.
Health District officials say schools that follow the guidelines have limited transmission of COVID-19.
An online option remains available for parents who are still concerned about safety during the pandemic.
“It’s tough because people are very divided on this. It’s one of those situations that is a no win,” said Thompson. “You get people who think we should have gone back two months ago and then people who don’t think it’s safe to go back yet.”
That is why the district wanted to be able to continue offer an online learning program, although he said the majority of families are pushing more toward in-person learning currently.
“At this point I would say there are more families who want to be back in school,” he said.
Hybrid-learning is likely to stay for a while, said Thompson.
The biggest obstacle currently is the six feet needed between students, which is a requirement of the Snohomish Health District and Washington State Department of Health.
Thompson said it’s not possible for the district to meet that requirement and have all students back at the same time.
“We just don’t have the room in the classrooms to do that without the hybrid model,” he said. “My hope would be by the fall we can have classes be close to normal."