Educators expect a large class of incoming kindergartners at Astor Elementary in September as registration opens this month.
The Astoria School District started this school year online only and principal Kate Gohr believes many families opted to wait a year to enroll their youngest children. Some reasoned that their kids would gain little from online schooling while the school district remained shut down to in-person classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, with widespread vaccinations underway and a more positive outlook on pandemic-related precautions, Gohr expects demand to be high for next school year.
Kindergarten registration opens April 15. Gohr is not certain yet how many students Astor Elementary will be able to accommodate as state rules about distancing and other pandemic-related measures change weekly, but, in the past, a large kindergarten class could be around 160 students.
Some remote education will likely still be offered since every family has different comfort levels with a return to in-person instruction.
For Gohr and other educators, though, in-person school means they can see their students’ progress.
“It’s really hard when they’re online to see their work and kind of help them through it,” Gohr said.
For the kindergarten students, in-person classes mean they can interact with each other and build social and emotional skills as they learn.
Teachers plan to emphasize outdoor play and the imaginative play, learning and storytelling that can emerge from being outside, Gohr said.
“For a lot of kids it’s almost foreign,” she said. “They’re used to being inside or on screens and being outside is the new and different thing.”
The school district began the school year online and has only reopened to regular, in-person education in recent months.
Teachers working specifically with younger students have seen a marked improvement as students began a return to classrooms in February. At school board meetings, Gohr and others working with lower grades had often noted the difficulty in reaching and teaching younger students through a computer screen.
Though schools expect to be in a very different place by September, some precautionary measures may still be in place.
Superintendent Craig Hoppes has said he expects mask-wearing, for example, will still be necessary. But the state has already eased certain social distancing requirements, allowing schools to bring back even more students in the final months of this school year.
At the elementary schools, educators have found mask-wearing has not been a problem for students.