Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District

Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District

First-graders are back in their buildings

Second- and third-graders are scheduled to return Feb. 8.

Like the Mercer Island School District kindergartners before them, local first-graders returned to in-person learning nearly two weeks later on Jan. 19.

The first-graders are also at school from 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then spend the remainder of their days at home with remote and asynchronous learning. Their in-person session includes an outdoor snack and recess/break and hand sanitizing at the beginning of the day and after the break. Teachers and students are wearing masks and desks are situated six feet apart.

“The first day was fun and it makes me want to go back,” said Northwood Elementary School first-grader Reagan Rahlfs, whose dad, Ryan, emailed her comment to the Reporter. Other Island elementary schools are Island Park, Lakeridge and West Mercer.

In a previous Reporter article, assistant superintendent Fred Rundle said the district received the go-ahead from the Washington State Department of Health and the district’s risk management staff to open the doors for kindergarten.

“As long as we’re demonstrating that we are controlling school transmission, we can continue to roll grade levels out,” said Rundle regarding guidance within the Department of Health’s toolkit on COVID.

According to an in-person hybrid learning timeline on the district site, second- and third-graders are scheduled to return on Feb. 8, with fourth- and fifth-graders to follow on Feb. 24, sixth-graders on March 9, seventh- and eighth-graders on March 16, ninth-graders on March 16 and 10th-12th-graders on March 23.

“We have to move to hybrid for all our groups of students beyond first grade because of the physical distancing. The six-foot physical distancing doesn’t allow us to bring in whole classes like we can in K and 1. We made that adjustment to the smaller classes so we can bring those whole classes in,” said Superintendent Donna Colosky at a school board meeting on Jan. 14.

Colosky added that all the projected return dates depend on the Decision Tree and toolkit guidance and approval from the district’s Learning Forward groups.

The projected plan for grades 2-5 will have their days starting at 9:15 a.m. and finishing at 3:45 p.m. with a mixture of in-person, streaming and asynchronous learning, online teacher collaboration time and more. The schedule will be similar to the kindergarten and first-grade setup and also feature both in-person and streaming-only learners.

If all goes according to the secondary school plan, Islander Middle School will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Mercer Island High School will be in session from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The expanded schedule will depart from the Red remote learning plan and feature periods of the day. On Mondays, all students will participate remotely, and then groups of students will switch off from in-person and streaming learning the rest of the week.

“The hybrid schedule will have limitations, but we believe it affords everyone the best opportunity to finish the 2020-2021 strong and prepare learners for what we expect to be a ‘typical’ 2021-2022 school year,” the district site states.

For more information, visit https://www.mercerislandschools.org/


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