Photo Courtesy Eatonville School: District Communications Department
Elementary students prepare for class last week in Eatonville. Pre-kindergarten, special education and students through fifth-grade have already returned to in-school learning a couple times of week. Middle and high schoolers are set to return in the coming weeks.
Photo Courtesy Eatonville School: District Communications Department Elementary students prepare for class last week in Eatonville. Pre-kindergarten, special education and students through fifth-grade have already returned to in-school learning a couple times of week. Middle and high schoolers are set to return in the coming weeks.

Eatonville School District welcomed back kindergarten through fifth-grade students to the classroom, Thursday.

They were the second group of students to return to in-school instruction following a hybrid A/B model, which allows students to attend in-person twice a week and work from home three days a week.

On Jan. 19, preschool and special education students returned to school.

In the next couple of weeks, secondary students will return to school part time. Sixth- through eighth-graders will return to school Monday, and high schoolers are slated to return Feb. 8.

In addition, EHS athletics for “fall season” will begin following Washington Interscholastic Activities Association guidance on Feb. 1.

Eatonville School District Superintendent Krestin Bahr said in a letter to district parents that bringing students back to school using the hybrid plan meets guidelines for returning to in-person instruction established by Gov. Jay Inslee on Dec. 16.

“As a system, we understand the challenges remote learning creates for many of our families,” Bahr said in the letter. “We recognize having students back on our campuses allows us to more effectively address social and emotional learning, students’ overall mental health and provide more equitable education for all of our students.”

In the letter, Bahr said she feels optimistic for 2021 and hopes “that bringing more students back into our schools is just one sign among many that better times are ahead.”

According to Bahr's letter, the district is working with the local health department and medical providers to ensure staff and community are aware of vaccine priorities, availability and access.

According the Eatonville School District Communications Department, approximately 200 students transferred to alternative programs, including Eatonville Online Academy, Elementary Virtual Academy and Mount Rainier Parent Partnership, since last year because of COVID-19.

In another letter to parents, Bahr highlighted the steps the district has taken to prepare staff and students for their return to the school buildings and ensure their safety. She said the district has worked with the Infection Prevention & Antimicrobial Consultants, LLC, consulting group over the last two months and has implemented several mitigation strategies to minimize staff and student risk of exposure to COVID-19. The district is also following recommended COVID-19 health and safety measures, including small group instruction of 15 or fewer students in a room, and staff are also ready to monitor and respond to suspected cases of COVID-19. According to the district's safety protocol plan, smore.com/e3a71, students will be screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms and have their temperatures taken prior to entering classrooms. Students are also required to wear face masks on buses and school district property at all times.

In addition, to allow secondary students to return to in-school instruction, the school district has been offering COVID-19 tests weekly to staff and students 16 and older.

According to Bahr's letter, the district will continue monitor community COVID levels and comply with all guidance and recommendations from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.