CONWAY — With COVID-19 still looming, the new school year started Monday in Skagit County.

The Conway School District was the first public school district in the county to start school. Like other districts statewide, Conway is offering full-time in-person learning.

“We want (students) here,” district Superintendent Jeff Cravy said.

With the exception of continuing COVID-19 safety protocols, including mandatory masks and a required 3 feet of physical distancing, Monday was like most other first days of school.

Kids tried to find their classrooms and quickly fell back into usual routines, including their beloved recess.

Last school year, the district was the only public district in the county to have students on campus year-round, beginning the year with its youngest learners on campus and phasing in more students every few weeks, Cravy said.

He said the district had no COVID-19 outbreaks last school year because staff, students and families did their parts to follow health and safety protocols.

While the district is still taking COVID-19 precautions this year, including regular testing for unvaccinated staff and precautions for students or their families who need to quarantine, Cravy said he thinks the same success should be expected this year.

“I think we’ll still be OK,” he said.

A noticeable COVID-19 related change is at lunch time, where, to allow for physical distancing requirements, some students are eating outside in the playground’s covered area, while those eating inside will do so with spacing and all facing one direction so as not to breathe on each other.

Other than that, many of the school’s changes for this year are not related to COVID-19, Cravy said.

In its library, the school has set up a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) lab, complete with a wall for Legos, and hired new educators focused on STEM learning, he said.

As students and educators work to make up for last year, the district is placing an enhanced focus on the social and emotional needs of students, supporting positive behaviors and trying to get students to return to “normal” with a love of learning, Cravy said.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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