For many Sunnyside School District students, parents and educators, the return of all grades, K-8 kiddos for classroom teaching on Monday, April 26, felt like it was the first day of school all over again, and for the third time.

“I’m very, very happy with the way everybody kind of jumped in, our whole entire school community, not just our employees and students, but really, parents, family members – everybody took part and was patient,” Superintendent Kevin McKay expressed.

Around 8:30 a.m., students at WA Elementary School had already started to gather out front of the campus. Vehicles were lined up alongside the sidewalk in the drop-off lane. Parents and family members escorted excited pupils and strolled onto the campus, while some were still holding hands after they had crossed ninth street.

The proportionately scaled green chain link fence which runs adjacent to the passenger unloading walkway was a popular spot for kiddos to congregate as they waited patiently with backpacks, show and tell items in hand. Their voices could be heard talking about the streaming television show, ‘The Mandalorian’ and its main baby Yoda character named Grogu.

There was the typical first day traffic congestion problems reported at multiple schools, according to the superintendent.

“The high school return is something that we all want but it’s just not at this time to move students to three feet,” McKay explained. “What’s really holding us up right now from bringing them back to a more in person learning is the guidance from our local health district, Department of Health and the CDC.”

Yakima County had 233.5 cases per 100,000 people from April 12-25 and before the high school can transition with more students on campus at the same time, the case count must drop below 200, he indicated.

“We know that the days we have between now and the end of the school year are extremely important for student learning,” McKay conveyed.

He hopes people are not thinking too much about the last day of school, Friday, June 11, when there’s still a significant amount of teaching days remaining.

“We are really working on making sure that students, families and staff all know these days are extremely important and that we need to be doing the best job we possibly can all the way through to the last day of school. I think we can make a very big difference with kids and starting to get them caught up of what they may have missed. Or at least learning more about what they may need in the future to get them back on course,” McKay stated.

Inslee announces two-week pause on phases

Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday, May 4, every county will remain in its current phase of the Roadmap to Recovery coronavirus reopening plan and at the end of two-weeks, each county will be re-evaluated.

The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Health and reflects current data suggesting the state’s fourth COVID-19 wave has hit a plateau, according to the governor’s media release. Epidemiologists report the present wave has been less severe and attribute the improved data results to increasing vaccination rates.

“We are at the intersection of progress and failure and we cannot veer from the path of progress,” Inslee said in statement. “Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth thanks to some of our great legislative victories and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening - if we adhere to public health until enough people are vaccinated.”

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

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