By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

For younger students, it’s back to the classroom

Rusty Rae/News-Register ##
Reading instructor Megan Whitaker points the way to students as they hop off the bus and head back to classes at Columbus Elementary School Monday morning, the first day of hybrid learning in the McMinnville School District.
Rusty Rae/News-Register ## Reading instructor Megan Whitaker points the way to students as they hop off the bus and head back to classes at Columbus Elementary School Monday morning, the first day of hybrid learning in the McMinnville School District.

Large yellow buses rolled through McMinnville and Lafayette Monday as elementary students returned to classrooms in the McMinnville School District.

It was the first day of in-person classes in a year. School buildings closed as of March 13, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly all McMinnville students have been studying via distance learning since then.

Educators, parents and children said they are excited by the reopening. Teachers and students have seen each other daily through live, online classes, but it’s not like being in the same room, they said. 

Elementary students are in school for 2 1/2-hour sessions, either in the morning or the afternoon. During the other half of the day, they will continue distance learning, working on projects or watching pre-recorded lessons.

Students will be in small groups that stay together. Although no recesses are planned, children will have “movement breaks” frequently.

As they study, they will sit at least 6 feet apart in classrooms, with plastic barriers at their desks. They will wear masks and wash their hands frequently.

Between class sessions, classrooms will be cleaned. Schools are being sanitized with UVA light that kills coronavirus, officials said.

Not all families are ready for a return to in-person learning, though; about one-third of students chose to continue distance learning.

Many cited concerns about the continuing threat of coronavirus. They worried not just about children being infected, but about the possibility that they might spread the virus to vulnerable family members.

Meals will continue to be available free to all students, although bus delivery will no longer be available.

Middle and high school students in the McMinnville district have not yet returned to buildings. Secondary classes are scheduled to begin in-person on April 19, the start of the final quarter of the year.

As of last week, more than 50 percent of families had responded to a survey about whether they would switch to hybrid learning or stay with Comprehensive Distance Learning. About three-quarters planned to send their students back to buildings.

Hannah Smith and Charlotte Stuart, McMinnville High School student body president and vice president, told the school board last week that they can’t wait for in-person classes to resume.

“It’s crazy exciting,” Smith said.

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