Area School Districts Welcome Students Back to Full-Time, In-Person Learning

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With students at Rainier School District and Yelm Community Schools returning to full-time, in-person learning this week, one school official is excited to get back to some sense of normal.

John Beckman, principal of Rainier High School and Rainier Middle School, said that after an interesting year and a half, everyone he works with is excited for the new chapter that’s beginning in Washington state education.

“Last year it was hard starting remote, with all kinds of different transitions back and forth,” Beckman said. “This year, to have the kids start in-person on day one is great.”

He said he wants everything to transition back to the way it was before the pandemic and to keep progressing forward, while taking steps each day to get the kids back to their regular routines.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep them here,” Beckman said. “That’s the target. To keep them in in-person learning and to keep them safe — to have as much normalcy as possible.”

He added keeping students in-person will require keeping them safe, and his schools will do their part in that effort. 

To achieve student safety, he said his schools will follow the guidelines set forth by the state.

“Nobody’s excited about wearing masks, but ultimately, just getting students here, even though they have to wear masks, and seeing them every day, that’s why all of us went into education,” Beckman said. “So getting that back is definitely the most exciting part of the new school year.”

He said multiple kids opted to stay with remote learning last year once students returned to campus, and some have decided to continue that during the 2021-22 school year.  

“It’s transitioning those kids back and getting the kids to feel comfortable with the daily routines, and hopefully getting the kids more and more involved with extracurricular stuff, that are important,” he said.

With a district as small as Rainier’s Beckman said he really gets to know the kids as they pass through the halls of his schools, and not seeing some of them during the pandemic’s shutdowns was difficult.

“There’s kids that I haven’t seen for over a year and a half and now they’re back,” Beckman said. “It’s a really close-knit community. I’m fortunate that I’m the middle school and the high school principal, so I get them from sixth grade on.”

Ultimately, he said he wants to retain the connection he typically makes with each and every student.

“I missed that connection,” Beckman said. “Last year we got some of that, but there were just so many moving parts. A lot of kids were still out. This just feels like it’s back to more like it was before.”

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