The Pullman School Board discussed shifting elementary students from a hybrid schedule to full-time, in-person instruction five days a week and also revised the district’s stages of reopening at its regular meeting Wednesday evening.

In his report to the board, Pullman Superintendent Bob Maxwell said a move that began earlier this month to bring kindergarten through fifth grade back to school for two days of in-person instruction has gone well. He said elementary grades have been gradually phased into a hybrid form of instructional delivery since Jan. 1. Maxwell said fourth and fifth graders will return to school facilities for the first time Monday.

Maxwell said he and other district administrators have also discussed and prepared for a potential shift from hybrid to a full-time, five-day schedule for elementary school students. However he emphasized the work on this plan is still in the early stages.

“No date has been established for a return to five days at this time ... we are in the planning process,” Maxwell said. “We are working closely with the Whitman County Department of Health and (the Pullman Education Association) regarding a return five days a week — this is only for K through five.”

The board approved some minor changes to its “Stages of Reopening” plan to better align the district’s reopening strategy with guidance from the state.

The plan calls for the gradual return of kindergarten through eighth grade to some form of in-person learning as long as local cases remain below 350 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period. According to the plan, high school students could be brought back once COVID-19 virus cases dipped below 200 per 100,000 people in the county.

Whitman County’s rate of positive cases continues to hover around 350 per 100,000 but Maxwell said he and other district officials are continuing to plan and draft schedules for middle and high school students to be shifted to a hybrid schedule. He said there is no firm start date but said even with approval of the revised plan, it may be subject to change if district leaders deem it necessary.

“I don’t think any stage of the reopening plan is written in stone,” he said. “Obviously we’ve seen a lot of changes not only in our region but we’ve seen changes statewide as well with the recommended cases, so it’s really complex.”

Administrators and trustees were joined by a number of Pullman High School students Wednesday, and each were in favor of a return to in-person instruction for all students in the district as soon as possible. Mental health among students, quality of education and poor academic performance were common themes in their remarks.

High school senior and student body president Hannah Talbot asked board members to imagine themselves in a student’s shoes and consider what they might be missing out on or needing help with.

“I know you don’t have an easy job but thank you for all you’re trying to do for us and all of your hard work,” Talbot said. “I hope we can find a solution to get all students back in school.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@dnews.com.

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