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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

With Kindergarten Registration And Return To Classrooms, Boise Schools Poised To Return To ‘Normal’

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Boise Independent School District
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Tuesday, March 9 will be the 2020-2021 school year's "65th first day of school," according to Wendi Forrey, principal of White Pine Elmentary in Boise. That's when Boise elementary school children will resume in-person, five-day-a-week instruction.The day before, Monday, March 8, Forrey and her peers at elementary schools across the Boise School District will be hosting registration for soon-to-be kindergarteners — kids who someday will become the class of 2034.

In anticipation of what promises to be a very busy week, Forrey visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about registration and the "new normal" of returning to the classroom.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. The Boise School District is preparing to return to five-day-a-week in-person instruction. Next week, elementary school students return full time. And then in a couple of weeks, after spring break, the upper classes return. But first things first. Let's talk about the class of 2034. Can you imagine the class of 2034? On Monday, registration for kindergarten will be held in Boise elementary schools. And here to talk about that and how things have been going in this challenging school year, we're joined by Wendi Forrey. She is principal at White Pine Elementary in Boise. Wendi, good morning.

WENDI FORREY: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

PRENTICE: First off… I want to get to registration in a second… but I am curious about the anticipation level for the return of full-time in person education.

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Credit Boise Independent School District
Wendi Forrey, principal at White Pine Elementary School

FORREY: Well, there's definitely a buzz around the building right now. And it is fun when I talk to the kids in the cafeteria and out at recess and around the building. They are so excited to see their friends. We recently purchased T-shirts for our entire school as an incentive, and they’re super-cute… they're all navy blue, our school colors, and they say,  “We're in this together: White Pine Elementary.” And we are planning all staff members and kids wearing those on Tuesday so that we are all a team, we're all a community. I joke. It's 65th first day of school, which isn't really true. But the kids laugh because we've transitioned and pivoted so many times this year to stay safe and keep learning. But we are so excited.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about Monday: kindergarten registration. New parents are nervous on a good day. What can you tell parents now, considering registration and talking to them this year in regard to safety protocols and navigating this pandemic?

FORREY: So, we are excited about Monday and of course, it's going to look a little different. But due to COVID, I think we're learning to do some things really well. Actually, we're offering some options for families. So, we are offering just a 100 percent online. You can do your registration and communicate with us completely online and no need to enter the building. We're also offering appointment-only, and you can make an appointment. We will greet you at the door. Again, we've got our safety protocols in place and our hand sanitizers and our mask. We will provide masks if they need that for their kiddos and themselves. And they can come in, go through the assessment that we provide the kindergartners. And then they also have the opportunity to come to the open house between 3 and 6 p.m. on Monday. And again, same safety protocols. We will go through showing them some fun things about what they're going to learn in kindergarten. We have a photo booth set up that has a laminated, “Class of 2034, the Future White Pine Timber Wolf.”  We want to make this as fun and as welcoming as we can for these families. It is scary; and I know other schools in the school district are doing the very same things: offering lots of options for families and really trying to get kids excited about kindergarten.

PRENTICE: Are there half day and full day options?

FORREY: Yes, at White Pine…not every school offers a full day option. Every school does offer the half day auction. But at our school, we do offer both,

PRENTICE: I was thinking about this earlier this morning… I was thinking about hugs and how essential they are in elementary school from a teacher or from a principal. How do you navigate that?

FORREY: We're not going to deny a child a hug if they really need it. But we are educating our kids right now in so many different ways that we can show them we care, and they can show us that they care. So, we're doing elbow touches; we're doing fun foot taps. We're talking about smiling with your eyes through your masks. There are lots of things that we are doing. We're making lots of hearts with our hands and that's kind of our virtual high-five in the air. Lots of things that we're trying to do through this period where we want to keep them safe, keep their families safe and our staff safe. Again, it's just a pivot on how we do things. And the kids are coming up with really fun ways to show that they care about us and their peers through all of these fun ways.

PRENTICE: All along the way, with all of these extra safety protocols: the face masks, the extra cleansing, the distancing. Wow. Talk about reinvention.

FORREY: And our kids are so resilient. I think, as a parent and an educator, I was concerned, “How are these kids going to wear masks all day?” They do better than most adults, quite honestly. They don't need to be reminded. We praise them often, but they just do it. They have done it well and have kept us in school right now. And we're looking forward to the five-days-a-week. We talk about it on morning announcements. I thank them for wearing their masks. I thank them for washing their hands when they use the restroom, thank them for doing their hand sanitizer before they eat, and when they transition from recess and back into the building. And they're just doing it so well.

PRENTICE: And you said this was the 64th first day of school. What was that?

FORREY: Well,  I joke and say, “It's the 65th first day of school.”

PRENTICE: Well best of luck with the 65th first day of school. She is Wendi Forrey,  principal at White Pine Elementary in Boise. And congratulations, by the way, for making it thus far and… sprint to the finish.

FORREY: Thanks, George. We are so excited to see these little ones come next Monday. There's a buzz in the building right now about five-days-a-week. And next Monday, when we get to see these little ones, it just reminds us of why we do what we do. Being with kids is our passion and it's our calling. And we see the light at the end of this dark tunnel we're in. So, we're excited.

PRENTICE: Have a great morning.

FORREY: Thanks, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio