Empty classrooms: Wenatchee Valley school districts aim for online-only start

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WENATCHEE — Both Wenatchee and Eastmont school districts say they’re planning to commence classes in an online-only format — no in-person instruction — when school resumes Aug. 26, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is not where I want us to be; this is not where our staff wants us to be; we want our students back in the classroom,” Wenatchee Superintendent Paul Gordon said in a news release announcing the district’s move.

But both districts acknowledged that the area’s rising COVID-19 infection rate — an average of 50 new cases have been diagnosed daily in the last week — make a return to physical classrooms risky for students, faculty, staff and the wider community.

Both districts have plans for remote learning to present to their boards. The Wenatchee School Board is expected to vote on Gordon’s proposal Wednesday; Eastmont’s board on Aug. 3.

Wenatchee students would begin classes online in classes taught by teachers at their enrolled schools, until the public health situation allows a safe return to school buildings. The district had initially planned for students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade to return to physical schooling, and older grades to be taught in a hybrid online/in-person model.

In both districts, younger students would be the first to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms as the pandemic allows, followed by their older peers.

The Wenatchee School District plans to host a virtual town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 4 on its restart plans for fall. Parents can submit questions before the meeting at wenatcheeschools.org through Aug. 2.