VISD plans for kindergarten’s return
By Marina-Rae Gill, Reporter
With the start of the new year, many school districts in the Seattle metropolitan area have launched into the process of returning to in-person school and are taking safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Vashon Island School District (VISD) is currently preparing for their own return, and will slowly integrate students by grade level beginning with kindergarten. Though a start date has not yet been determined, VISD believes students and teachers may safely attend school as early as March 1.
Graphic by Marina-Rae Gill
With the probability of in-person school beginning near in the future, CES principal Rebecca Goertzel and the rest of the elementary school faculty have been brainstorming the best possible ways to keep students and staff safe with plans for physical distancing, mandatory face masks, and vaccinations.
“We hope that school staff has the opportunity to be vaccinated soon,” Goertzel said. “The state recommends staff [age] 50 and over get vaccinated first, but have said that if there is enough supply we can vaccinate the whole staff. We hope that will be happening soon and are coordinating with our local pharmacy to have a drive-thru event.”
Even with the many safety precautions put in place, many families will not be sending their children back to in-person school, and will continue virtual classes. This applies to CES teachers as well.
“While we only have five teachers who qualify to not come back due to health concerns, we have many remote positions,” Goertzel said. “Thirty-seven percent of our students have chosen to stay remote, so about 30 percent of our teachers can also stay remote.”
Fewer students returning to school also benefits the school’s current plan for returning students and reduces the number of students per classroom.
“We will have a half day morning and afternoon program, so we will have ten students in each classroom,” Goertzel said. “We will teach students to socially distance and have our desks placed with six-foot spacing. We will have markers on the floor also showing the spacing.”
Along with schedules, seating arrangements, and number of students and teachers, the school district has also created a safe bus system in order to transport the 40 returning kindergarteners to and from school.
“Drivers will get vaccinated along with the teachers and other staff. We will distance students in seats as much as possible, and leave windows slightly open for increased ventilation,” Goertzel said. “We will have about 40 percent of students taking the bus. Commuters will attend the morning session.”
As more and more grade levels are added to the group of returning students, rules and schedules will need to be amended in order to accommodate for the increased number of students. Several teachers from VISD even visited another school to improve the current plan.
“We are carefully following OSPI and DOH guidelines. We have also looked at information from other schools, including a site visit to a school in hybrid learning since September.” Goertzel said. “Many systems [will] need to change― recess, lunch, specialists, lining up, carpet seating, etcetera.”
Preparing for the kindergarten students returning to school is proving to be a lengthy process, as teachers and students must be kept as safe as possible.
“There is a lot to get ready before our students return… It takes a lot of work and safety preparations, and I am looking forward to having our youngest learners back in school.” Goertzel said.