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Elementary students in Woodland return to school for hybrid learning Tuesday

Around 500 students will return to a hybrid version of school at three elementary schools in the Woodland Public Schools District.

WOODLAND, Wash. — Around 500 elementary students in the Woodland Public Schools District will return the week of Jan. 4-8 for a hybrid form in-class learning. 

Starting Jan. 5, 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders from North Fork, Yale and Columbia Elementary schools will head back to class. Kindergartners and 1st graders began attending a hybrid version of school back in October.

"They're picking out their outfits," said Calah Huffman, a Woodland parent of three kids. "Especially my older one she's very excited."

Huffman's three children, two of whom are in elementary school, will attend class in person this week. Huffman says her first grade daughter Paisley, struggled with remote learning.

"She's a lot happier now. It's not like a fight to get her to go to school because she's excited to go," Huffman said. "When it was online all the time, she didn't even want to get up. Lots of tears."

Even with the hybrid version being only two days a week, Huffman says her daughter is much happier now. 

For a brief time in October, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade students attended school in-person, until case counts began to rise again and the district made the decision to pull them back to remote learning entirely.

Huffman says her 4th grade daughter Brooklynn struggled the most with online learning. 

"So when she got to go back to school it was great for her self-esteem and her attitude," Huffman said. "I'm excited and she's very excited that she gets to go back tomorrow."

At the Johnson household in Woodland, 4th grader Travis is getting ready for his first day back this week. 

"I'm looking forward to having fun and hanging out with my friends," Travis said from his bedroom while attending school remotely.

His dad Andrew said in-person learning will be good for Travis.

"He'll excel even more once he gets back to seeing his teacher and stuff more, getting more one-on-one help with his teacher rather than just over video conference."

Andrew's daughter Emma, who's in first grade, will head back to class too, this time with her big brother. Andrew said he has seen a big change in Emma since she returned to school in October.

RELATED: Teachers collaborate to get kids energized for better remote learning

"Attitude, attentiveness, cooperation, getting her schoolwork done, even here at home. Everything has gotten better since she was able to at least get in a couple days a week."

The district said even though case counts are high in Cowlitz County, studies show there is little transmission of the virus with young children.

Superintendent Michael Green said parents have a choice to send their kids back to school or they can choose to remain fully remote. He said the benefits of in-person learning outweigh those of remote learning.

"The quality of instruction is just not the same," Green said. "You have the opportunity to work more closely with students to support their learning in that live setting. To listen to them read, to do things that you just can't do as effectively remotely. That's one of the reasons we kept the kindergartners and 1st graders in school even with high case numbers. We know that things like early reading and early math, it's just essential to have that one-on-one or classroom contact with students."

Huffman has been advocating for her kids to get back to school full-time and says she will continue to push for that.

"Mentally what it's done to our kids, it's sad," she said. "My kids that have never had anxiety, depression and struggling with it and so many other kids that I know. They loved school, and they hated school when it was online.

"I think I speak for the majority of parents: Mental health is just as important as physical health. I think that they should all go back for that reason alone. It's hard having your kids all at home. The teachers are doing the best they can, but it's also, we become teachers. It's just a different dynamic at home."

The district said the earliest that students in middle school could head to class would be Feb. 1.

RELATED: 'Teachers are struggling and they're drowning': Educators detail the stress of distance learning

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