PESHASTIN — For weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has meant most school classes in the Wenatchee Valley consist of a kid, a computer, and teachers and classmates gathered by Zoom.
But on Monday, Emily Ross, the principal of Peshastin-Dryden Elementary School, got to throw open her doors to greet about 80 young students for the first time since Washington’s school buildings closed to the public last March. Likewise, the youngest students at Vale Elementary in Cashmere got together under one roof for their first in-person classes.
Right now, students from kindergarten through second grade are learning under a hybrid model — part time in-class, part-time remote learning. Approved by the Chelan-Douglas Health District, the move was made possible by communitywide testing that showed less prevalence of COVID-19 in the Upper Wenatchee Valley.
Cascade Superintendent Tracy Beckendorf-Edou oversees schools from Peshastin to Leavenworth to Plain, educating more than 1,300 students. She says the idea for starting the youngest students first stems from epidemiology, showing less infection and harm among young people, and from educational science.
Depending on COVID’s continued prevalence in the community, there are plans afoot to bring back Cascade kids to grades three through five.