By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Some elementary school students returned to classrooms in Crook County on Tuesday thanks to continued declining COVID cases.
The first day of school energy and excitement were palpable even through the mandatory masks, temperature checks and hand washing.
Kindergarten through 3rd-grade students returned to Barnes Butte, Crooked River, and Stein’s Pillar Elementary schools, and the Brothers and Paulina schools for the first day of in-person classes.
Whether they walked to school, were driven by their parents or rode the bus, all students had to sanitize their hands and undergo touchless temperature checks before entering the building.
“I was really impressed. Most kids already had a mask on. The kids that didn’t, we were able to give them a disposable mask,” said Kimberly Bonner, principal of Crooked River Elementary. “Parents were great, just kissing their babies goodbye and letting them come in the building. They are very understanding that we can’t have visitors in the building right now. Everybody was very friendly and very happy. It was so great to see kids back. This is why we do what we do for kids and we’ve missed them.”
Many lessons the first day of school emphasized the need for students to space themselves apart, wear masks, and to frequently wash their hands.
“We have little markings in the hallways for kids to be six feet apart. We have their desks spread out in the classroom. When they are in the classroom they are provided face shields. When they leave the classroom they’ll have a mask on their face,” Bonner said. “We are eating in the classrooms. We are getting rid of any shared spaces. Kids are in a cohort. They are in a small group of the same students throughout the entire day. Lots of safety protocols in place. We are doing the absolute best that we can.”
Crook County middle and high school students begin attending hybrid classes on September 9th.
If the metrics continue improving, those older students could also soon return to the classroom.
Every classroom has been measured to provide a minimum of 35 square feet per person, including any adults that will be in the rooms.
“Right now we still have room for students. We know that a lot of parents are choosing an online option at this moment. We are hoping that as things calm down and people see that we are doing this that we’ll see those kids come back into the brick-and-mortar building,” Bonner said.
School hours are essentially the same while schedules are somewhat modified to accommodate operational changes and student movements.