Puyallup students return to in-person learning with some major changes

PUYALLUP, Wash. — Students headed back to school in Puyallup on Thursday, where the district has made major changes since June.

KIRO 7′s Lauren Donovan visited an elementary school in the South Hill neighborhood to see the new updates after students spent the last school year online.

“This year, we’re trying to socialize more because last year I was inside the house a lot,” said Edgerton Elementary School sixth grader Molly Irwin.

Molly told Donovan she was eager to start sixth grade surrounded by classmates after a year of learning on her own.

“It’s been a long 18 months. She grew up going to school here. She had to miss fifth grade here. We went totally online last year,” said Molly’s dad Sean.

Principal Eric Molver told KIRO 7 that pandemic or not, the feeling and mindset are the same, although the scene has certainly changed.

“I got to tell you, I don’t think today is going to feel a whole lot different than 2019,” Molver said.

Each classroom is diligently organized. For instance, individual tubs on each desk and in the cubbies are assigned to each student, as opposed to one large bin for the class.

Rules are different on the blacktop as well.

Last year, kids could only play in cohorts with masks on.

The Puyallup School District said they’ve hired more help to break up any big groups that may form.

“... and then the bell rings, they put their masks back on and they’re guided back into the building,” said Sarah Gillespie of the Puyallup School District.

When it comes to lunch, there are no social distancing markers and no assigned seats.

“Each one of our schools has a different design obviously, a different physical design,” said Mario Casello, the assistant superintendent of Puyallup schools. “We’re trying to be creative in all the different opportunities of where kids can eat.”

The district gave a list of rules to parents that details all the protocols, with keeping students safe as the priority.

“We’re going to work hard on math. We’re going to work hard on reading,” said Molver. “But the very first and probably most important thing we are going to build on is building that sense of culture, that sense of community.”