GRANDVIEW — U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, visited with Grandview High School Leadership students and heard how students are eagerly adjusting to advancing cohort model metrics for in classroom learning, while on center stage in the 452-seat auditorium during his tour of the newly constructed campus on Wednesday, March 31.

“Honestly, it is terrifying, but it is also just a great opportunity to even have a chance to be in this building in the first place,” Associated Student Body Senior Class President Yasmin Lamas explained. “But now that we have everyone in here, it feels great. I feel like an actual senior for once.”

The high achieving group shared with the lawmaker their individual difficulties for feeling disengaged from school and friends, while having to learn remotely at home. Newhouse listened to the students speak about their individual and shared hardships.

“My friends here are like my friends and family at home. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to go through quarantine, the pandemic, you know. I think that’s something that is really important,” a leadership student conveyed.

The Sunnyside resident and family farmer then asked them about what they had learned as a positive result from the pandemic’s sudden disruption on their lives.

Sophomore Cole Judkins responded, “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to stop. It’s okay to chill. It’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to take a walk with your family or watch a movie with your family. And I think without that we would have been kind of like go, go and never take the time to stop and appreciate.”

Newhouse interjected, “stop and smell the roses.” As students voiced, “yeah” in unison, he asked the students if they’ve ever heard the phrase before and indicated there’s a reason somebody came up with that expression; “to appreciate what you have,” he said.

Principal Kim Casey, Superintendent Henry Strom and School Board Member Dale Burgeson were also on hand and guided the 4th District Congressman on an informative stroll through a few of the facilities of the 222,000 sq. ft. school.

“It was really on our shoulders to earn the trust of our employees and the community, so that we could bring kids back. I’m very proud of our ESD 105 region,” Strom declared.

Administrators initiated the Small Cohort Learning to eight students in seven classrooms back in early October, Casey said. The plan was expanded to include more students and classrooms, which eventually brought every teacher back onto the campus.

Students remained with one teacher all day and were able to perform contact tracing in the peak part of late November, according to Casey. There was a total of about 240 students.

“We brought in our students furthest from educational justice. So, our special education students, our students with connectivity issues, our students who have second language learning issues and things like that. And then our students who were struggling the most with COVID or online learning,” the principal reported.

When they were ready to bring more students back, administrators had to follow revised social distancing guidelines at the time and there were about 320 students, she indicated.

Entering Phase 3, students could attend other classes and increased class size to about 16 per classroom and brought the total number of students to just under 500.

“Now that we’re planning for the three-foot social distancing, there are some steps and pieces that have to go through some District level issues such as unions, how to handle lunch, bussing and a few things like that. With our hope if we can hit that 200 threshold per 100,000 people mark, we’ll be able to bring back three-foot social distancing and every student who wants to come back can,” Casey advised.

Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation, GHS would have to allow an online learning option for the remainder of this year. She’s hopeful they’ll see about another 150 students return which is expected bring the total to around 700.

The reason those students are home is because they’re taking care of their elementary school family members at home who attend class every other day in the hybrid learning mode, Casey disclosed.

“It takes everybody to be on the same page and you see that here in Grandview. I think the teachers wanted to come back from what they tell me, which is really good,” Newhouse acknowledged, following his insightful tour with the ‘Hounds entourage.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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