For many local high school students, Feb. 2 was a day of excitement, as the Yakima Health District announced its support for high schools’ transition to a hybrid, partially in-person learning model.

Following the school closures nearly a year ago in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most public high school students have been kept out of the classroom, with a few school districts offering a limited number of in-person learning opportunities.

This month, following the Yakima Health District’s announcement, several local high schools began the transition to hybrid learning, with students attending school part-time.

At Selah High School:

Among those schools was Selah High School, which like many others in the county began its hybrid learning model Feb. 16. Although Selah High School had offered small-group, in-person instruction since January, the transition to hybrid learning was an even greater step toward normalcy.

“At first I kind of felt like it was too good to be true,” said Selah High School freshman Hannah Rees. “When I first found out that school was going back, I was, like, ‘This feels like a dream. This feels like a dream.’”

As a freshman, Rees had never actually attended high school in person; Feb. 16 marked one of her first times entering the school building as a student, which she admits was very nerve-wracking.

“It was like that ‘first day of school feeling.’ You’re just kind of panicked, you don’t know where your classes are. It was kind of surreal, honestly, to be back in school finally,” Rees said.

Fellow Selah High School freshman Macie Ladd had similar sentiments.

“It was a little difficult to find my way around the school,” Ladd said. “The only thing I knew about the high school was over Zoom.”

Nonetheless, Ladd was enthusiastic.

“I’m just grateful to be in the building,” Ladd said.

— Natalie Keller, Selah High School, 10th grade

At West Valley High School

West Valley High School junior Chloe Pavey was extremely excited at first when she heard the news students would be going back to school. The first day back in the hybrid schedule was nerve-wracking for her as she tried to go about a normal day of school with all the new rules.

“Trying to find my classes was hard without breaking the one-way hallway rule,” she explains. “I do appreciate the rules that are in place because they are keeping us safe.”

Although she’s only been back inside the school for a short time, Pavey has already found it to be beneficial to her learning. She feels it is easier to engage with teachers and her fellow classmates.

“I found it very helpful because we can finally have that in-person help, so it is much easier to ask questions in person instead of over a computer screen. I definitely feel more prepared for upcoming tests because it is easier to get help from teachers and the days I don’t have classes I have more time to do my classwork and prepare to ask questions on the days I do go to school.”

Pavey enjoyed, during that first week back, being able to connect with her classmates and teachers in person, and adds that she is looking forward to continuing hybrid school.

— Ruby Hoeger, West Valley High School sophomore

At Davis High School:

When the Yakima School District announced that high schools would be returning to in-person instruction starting in March, the news was met with a range of feelings: relief, surprise, excitement, anxiety.

One Davis High School senior, ASB Executive Board member Quyncie Tucker, voiced her concerns in an open letter and petition to the Yakima School District. In her letter, posted on Change.org, Tucker wrote: “Many families are multi-generational or high-risk due to illness and/or age, it is not fair to ask students to return and expose their families to possible death.”

She also argued that it is unfair to ask students to transfer to Yakima Online if they do not want to return in person.

Tucker pointed out that her thoughts reflect concerns shared by other students and families. She referenced an Instagram poll of community members in which 44 people preferred waiting longer to go back, while 21 reported being OK with returning in March. Among the responses:

“We’ve already been online for over half the school year, why rush now? Keep us safe.”

“Anxious, I really don’t want to go back. I might lose my job if we do.”

“It is an awkward time to go back. Why are we attempting this now in the middle of the quarter?”

Tucker’s nuanced approach to the situation is apparent when talking about it.

“I am aware that many people disagree with me and I hope that those people just take the time to read what I had to say and consider all sides,” she said. “These times are very difficult and hard to maneuver and everyone is just trying to get through it as easily as they can.

“I really just want people to consider all of the risks that this opens up, not just to students at these schools, but the community as a whole.”

Tucker remains committed to the safety of the community.

“I won’t stop raising these concerns until they are heard and taken very seriously into consideration,” she said.

With 112 signatures and 8 times as many views, Tucker noted that her post has sparked lots of positive feedback and support from students, staff members, and school alumni.

She was grateful that none of the responses have been overtly negative and plans on meeting with members of the Yakima School District to talk about her concerns.

— Ella Crowder, Davis High School senior