Some going to school, but there’s no room for all

In a presentation to the Kingston Citizens Advisory Council, North Kitsap School District Superintendent Laurynn Evans revealed that in-person instruction will return Nov. 9, but only part-time and for preschool through second-graders.

“We are going to start small … for only half days. This is due to the physical space constraints that we have with students and our teaching staff,” Evans said.

The return to in-person instruction depends on a variety of things that have not only presented additional costs for the district but has forced it to make hard decisions about how to reopen safely while meeting requirements of the Department of Health, Department of Labor & Industries, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Kitsap Public Health District.

In looking at all of the procedures and physical improvements outlined by those agencies, NKSD is facing a reality that it does not have enough space to safely bring all students back full time.

“The reality that we have is that most of our classrooms are somewhere between 800 and 900 square feet. When we look at those classroom sizes, and we are obligated to maintain social distancing while students are in a classroom, we cannot have a full class of kids in for a full day of instruction,” Evans said.

“Typically our class averages are running about 25-30 students depending on grade level. I can’t find a way to get 25 kiddos in a room comfortably and have them back.”

Ideas on how to bring kids back safely included splitting classes in half and operating on a half-day schedule or having students come in on alternate days. Even if there was additional space, the district would need to hire 40-50 more teachers and staff.

“It is extremely challenging to figure out a way to make this work,” Evans said.

After this group of students goes for a few weeks, the plan as of now is to slowly start adding additional grade levels with the hope that all grades will be back by the start of the second semester in January.

But first things first. Evans said she hopes COVID cases and district logistics are in place so the youngest students can start up Nov. 9.

Evans cautioned that just because kids are going to be allowed back to school, doesn’t mean they will stay in school; if cases rise those students may need to return to distance learning.

“The thing about COVID is that it just keeps changing, so a reality that we just need to be prepared for is either we will not be able to have kids back or we may bring them back and then case transmission data changes and we’re going to have to pull them back out again,” Evans said.