PHS returns to face-to-face classes

Pullman High School students exit the building after returning to in-person learning for the first time in nearly a year Monday afternoon.

Pullman High School hosted a regular, in-person class schedule for the first time in almost a year Monday as students returned to a hybrid schedule that includes two days a week of face-to-face instruction.

Instructors and administrators alike said the mood was largely buoyant as students poured through school doors for the first time since last spring.

“It feels wonderful to be back. It has been 50 weeks since we’ve had a good population back in this building,” said Principal Juston Pollestad. “It feels great, the energy was phenomenal this morning from our staff. Everyone’s excited to be here and to see our students (and) the kids coming in, you could feel their energy as well — it just feels right.”

As of Monday, Pullman High School students who opted to attend face-to-face classes will receive live instruction in school facilities two days a week. Students are split into A and B cohorts — A students attend classes Mondays and Thursdays and B students receive in-person instruction Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are reserved for online instruction for all students.

Pollestad said about 30 percent of PHS students opted to continue to receive instruction online only, but they will still have “synchronous” learning opportunities where they can tune into live classes with their in-person peers and even participate in group discussions. He said this will be coupled with asynchronous learning projects to ensure the workload students take on is more or less identical no matter their method for attending class.

Pollestad said teachers have been working tirelessly to create an online education experience that will be valuable for students but the feeling of relief at having students back was palpable.

“Nobody went into education to become a master at Zoom,” Pollestad said. “They’ve been doing a great job, but we’re here for people, and it’s uplifting for our staff to be able to have people back in the building.”

Band, choir and drama instructor Andrew Mielke said having students back in-person was a dramatic change for his classes in particular. He said he did his best to recreate the instructional experience for his classes online but in-person students — and their parents — noticed an immediate difference once live classes resumed.

He said he received an email from a parent right away saying their student had only been home for 20 minutes and the lift in their attitude after their first day of face-to-face musical instruction was noticeable. He said there is just no substitute for the value in-person instruction provides.

“It was totally a different experience, just one day in. That’s why we’ve developed the education system we have,” Mielke said. “I just saw kids in my classes just — I won’t say I saw them smiling because they were masked up — but reading their body language and their energy, they were happy to be back and they were ready to be back.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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