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What school will look like for Spokane elementary, high school students

The first day of class for Spokane Public Schools students is set for September 2.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Public Schools students are a week away from returning to the classroom full time as the new school year is set to begin on September 2.

Some restrictions remain in place as COVID-19 continues to surge across the state and the country. Staff and students will have to wear masks indoors on school grounds, but some things will start to return to the way they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's what class will look like for local elementary and high school students.

Elementary Schools

One big change at Longfellow Elementary School is the return of students to shared tables instead of individual desks.

"It didn't feel like school last year in a lot of ways. So, teachers are excited to be back and it feels like school, and I guess I keep describing to them is its school with masks," said Adam Oakley, Principal at Longfellow Elementary School.

Students are again able to sit at tables with their classmates due to the social distancing requirements being lowered to three feet from six feet. Students can also face each other this year, instead of being forced to face only toward the front of the room last year.

This will lead to increased interactions between students this year as compared to last year.

"You'll see kids in groups and you'll see kids taking turns with glue sticks and sharing scissors. Those are the things that you know, the skills that are learned in school. Getting along with others are really important. And I think if you walk into a classroom this year it will look a lot more like what you'd expect than it did last year," Oakley said.

Students will again be eating meals in their classrooms, but Oakley said they won't have to be constantly taking their masks off and putting them back on this year.

As for hallways, Oakley said its more about scheduling when classes move between rooms and go out to recess than it is about imposing more rules on kids.

"I've got control over that schedule, to where I can intentionally design that, a class from this end and a class from this end are going to the prep at the same time and you know, kind of controlling those traffic patterns so they're not necessarily crossing in the hallway," Oakley said.

When kids are at recess this year, Oakley said they can again play freely with their friends across the playground. Last year, he said students could only play in certain areas on certain days and had to stick with their cohort.

Some things will remain the same this year. Oakley said surfaces will be cleaned regularly and hand sanitizer will be available in classrooms. In fact, he said things such as available sanitizer and purposeful scheduling to avoid congestion in halls may stay after the pandemic ends.

High Schools

Chris Dunn is about to start his first year as principal of Shadle Park High School, and he's ready for students to return to the classroom.

"I really am excited just to see it, and to see kids starting to decorate the school, and coming back to get ready for football, and playing volleyball and cross country," Dunn said. "You got kids that came in for a band camp yesterday and they're coming back in today. Just getting to see them be excited and be engaged in the things that they love. There's really nothing better. That's going to be awesome."

One big change is, again, the social distancing requirements for schools. With this year's change to three feet from six feet, classrooms can hold more desks and students.

One thing staying the same is social distancing in halls, although Dunn said it will be more about asking students to be mindful instead of putting restrictions in place. Dunn also said lockers still won't be in use other than in special circumstances, but athletes will still have lockers for equipment in facilities like gyms.

When it comes to many other areas of the school day, Dunn said they're still waiting for more guidance from the state.

"I think those guidelines are still evolving and so that will really be something that we'll have to be attuned to over the next week and then probably into the couple weeks to start the school year," Dunn said.

Those guidelines include things like if students will be allowed to sit at tables for lunch or if they'll need to sit in individual chairs. Dunn also said the school is waiting for additional guidance when it comes to higher risk classes like PE and band or choir.