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Arlington teachers prepare to head back to the classroom, despite coronavirus concerns

Despite the district's coronavirus precautions, the Washington state teachers union says it's still too soon to go back.

ARLINGTON, Wash. — The first thing students will encounter when they come back to school in Arlington is a digital thermometer that will take their temperatures before they even enter a classroom.

In those classrooms will be teachers like Sherri Ballew. Ballew is eager to get in-person instruction going again, but still a bit apprehensive.

"Obviously my number one concern is keeping my students safe because I know anything that happens in here is going to affect their families too," she said.

Arlington schools are bringing back kindergarteners and first-graders on Oct. 12, a week later than originally planned.

Students have been learning from home since Sept. 1.

Washington Education Association President Larry Delaney said it's too soon to bring kids back.

"There are red flags everywhere," Delaney said.

Delaney said there's been a rise in coronavirus cases in parts of the state after the Labor Day holiday, including in Snohomish County.

Other districts have had to keep delaying a return to classrooms as cases have spiked.

"It's probably impossible to prepare for every scenario, but we have to do the best we can because the reality is the lives of students and educators potentially hang in the balance," Delaney said.

Arlington school officials believe they are doing the best they can, following a hybrid model that puts each student in the classroom just two days a week.

One way arrows direct traffic down the halls, desks are spaced six-feet apart, and plenty of hand sanitizer and PPE are on hand.

There's even a "care room" where symptomatic students can quarantine.

But there are still so many unknowns.

KING 5 asked Arlington Public Schools spokesman Gary Sabol if it might be opening too soon.

"We have not received any direction that we're opening too soon. That's why we're in pretty close communication with the health district," Sabol said.

School officials meet with the county's health officer every two weeks for an update and guidance.

For now, Ballew prepares her lessons for what will be a school year unlike any other.

"Part of being a learner is keeping our mask on and staying in our own space. I'm confident my students will be able to do that."

As for when older students will return to classrooms in Arlington, school officials say they will have to see how the next few weeks play out.