Richland private school is opening classrooms this fall
RICHLAND, Wash. — While most Washington school districts are opting for online learning in the fall, one Richland campus is bringing students back into classrooms.
“We actually have a waiting list in all grades right now,” said Jim Cochran, superintendent of Liberty Christian School. “There are many people in our community that do want to come back.”
In fact, they had to cap their classes and will still have more students than usual. On an average year, they’d have just under 400 students. This year, they’ll have about 450 across all twelve grades and kindergarten.
Fortunately, Cochran said they have the space to still spread out and social distance, but it’s taking some creativity from school administrators.
“We do want to create a bubble here that’s safe,” said he said.
The decision to reopen wasn’t hasty. Learning went remote to finish out the school year, and then a task force was formed – made up of staff, student representatives and even legal experts – to come up with a plan for fall.
“We are following requirements, and some of the recommendations we are choosing to follow and some we are choosing to go a different direction,” said Cochran. “If the governor put out an actual mandate closing schools we would comply with that.”
Though they are moving forward with in-person learning, back to school still won’t mean back to normal.
“It will look different from the minute they pull into the parking lot,” said Cochran.
There are the expected changes that will be in place – signage, mask-wearing, social distancing of desks and temperature checks every time someone walks through the front door.
“If a symptoms check form hasn’t been filled out when they do attendance, they’re flagged.”
They’ve also improved their ventilation system and will provide plexiglass barriers and other additional safety measures for some of the higher-risk teachers.
There won’t be sports or after-school events this fall, and recesses will look differently as well. Even drop-off will be staggered.
There are also more innovative changes. The library is being converted into a classroom because it’s more spacious, while other classes may take learning outside. For the younger kids, they’re using portable, floor desks along with hanging numbers and stickers on the floor to help guide them in social distancing.
The school also has multiple plans in place if COVID-19 affects a student or staff member.
“We’re ready to pivot to online learning,” said Cochran. “We could end up quarantining a class, we could quarantine a wing or we could quarantine the entire school if it becomes necessary.”
Cochran said some of their families have opted not to return, but many others are excited.
“Overwhelmingly, our decision to go back to in-person has been embraced by our school community,” he said. “We’re sad that everybody can’t come back but we understand that for some of our larger, local schools it’s just too much.”
Classes at Liberty Christian start Sept. 1.
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