EAST WENATCHEE — It’s strange to hear face-to-face summer school, as if that is a unique form of teaching, but for Cascade Elementary it’s a new experience during COVID-19.
The Eastmont School District is teaching about 40 third-graders struggling with reading and writing this summer, said John Reichmann, Cascade Elementary administrative intern. The school district is implementing all the safety features recommended by the state Department of Health to make sure students and teachers are safe. Decisions about what Eastmont will do in the fall are still being made, but this summer school program is providing guidance.
“We’ve always done a summer school program and this was a new challenge for us, but it looks like it’s working pretty well,” Reichmann said.
When students are first picked up at the bus stop, their parents fill out a form with any health information that day for the student, he said. They put that form into a lanyard and the student gets on the bus; each kid has their own seat.
“On (the form), the parents would have to attest to, ‘Have you been feeling sick?’, ‘coughing?’, ‘shortness of breath?’ — the same questions that you would see normally,” Reichmann said.
A paraeducator also rides on the bus to take any of the children’s temperatures if needed, he said.
If parents are dropping their kids off, the parents stay in the car, Reichmann said. But the student’s parents still fill out a health form with their information and put it in a lanyard.
About 30 kids ride the bus and 10 to 13 are dropped off, he said.
In the classroom, kids and adults must wash their hands with soap and water every time they leave, Reichmann said. The desks are 6 feet apart, everyone is wearing a mask, and students have their own supplies and do not share.
“Like for me, for example, if I were to go into classrooms, I’m gonna go in, I’m going to wash my hands and kind of set that example as well for the kiddos,” Reichmann said.
The classroom size has been reduced due to the pandemic, he said. For summer school, there are four classes for 40 to 45 students, so about 12 students per class.
At recess, the kids are separated into classrooms and each classroom gets a different section of the playground, he said. One group might be on the soccer field playing with soccer balls, while another is on the toys.
They can only play with their class and must be 6 feet apart, he said. Students don’t need to wear their masks outside if they don’t want to, he added.
“The kids have been doing actually a really good job saying, ‘You know what, I’d rather be safe. I’m gonna leave my mask on,’” Reichmann said.
One challenge with the masks is they can muffle sound, Reichmann said. So sometimes someone might need to pull down their mask to express themselves a little bit more.
Some of the teachers have been using face shields instead, so the children can see their facial expressions, he said. The ability to see a person’s facial expressions can help when teaching reading and writing.
The parents are grateful and excited to have their kids be a part of summer school, he said.
As for how the kids are doing with the stress of the situation, most of them are just happy to get back to school and see their friends and teachers, Reichmann said. It isn’t clear what the long-term impact from COVID-19 will be on student’s behavior.
“You know that’s something that we’ll probably see further down the road and see the impact,” he said. “As of right now, like I said, the kids seem very happy in the classroom.”