WENATCHEE — The first day of classes was a slow one for St. Joseph Catholic School.
Teachers at the small elementary in Wenatchee spent the day handing out materials to parents, whose children will be learning remotely.
Classes are expected to kick into high gear next week, but executing a lesson plan under COVID-19 restrictions requires a bit more diligence.
“I think there’s a lot more planning on both ends,” said fifth-grade teacher Lisa Martinez. “You have to plan ahead for what you’re going to ask in that live meeting, right, instead of right then. The kids almost have to write themselves a note.”
The school will be teaching its students remotely with Google Meet along with some take-home materials. Every Friday, parents or students will drop off the previous week’s homework and take home a new batch.
Martinez added that as teachers, “We need to be assuming that certain questions are going to come up as we’re doing that.”
That’s a hurdle that’s a little lower in person.
“It’s hard to get the instant feedback both ways. Like if the kid understands it, you don’t see it in their eyes,” said third-grade teacher Michelle Gutzwiler. “Or if they’re questioning things it’s hard for the little kid to say, ‘I don’t understand it.’ Where you’d see it in the classroom, you would see it in their face.”
But some day, students will return to the classroom. St. Joseph’s teachers say they hope to make the transition back as seamless as possible. So they’re teaching from the classroom and students will take part in prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance before school in the morning.
“We really are trying to replicate how it’s going to be when they come back to the building as much as possible,” Martinez said.
That includes a structured schedule.
“Because when you have, you know, four or five kids, you want them doing the same thing at the same time,” said kindergarten teacher Lindsay Pasion. “Not one on lunch break, one doing math, one doing silent reading, one on their individual conference with their teacher.”
Teachers at other schools within the valley have expressed concerns about forming good relationships with students they’ve never met over video. That’s not as much of an issue at St. Joe’s because several teachers “looped,” or moved up or down a grade, and will have the same students as last year.
Instead, the St. Joseph teachers said, handling their own children is among their primary concerns.
“I think juggling being a parent and trying to help our own children, just like any other working parent,” Berdan said.
“We all have kids and we all are teachers,” said Erin Stitt, a second-grade teacher.
“But I think that’s to our benefit, as well,” Berdan said. “We know what these parents are experiencing.”