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Lake Oswego elementary students transitioned to hybrid learning last week

COURTESY PHOTO: DEBI PANNING - Evie Panning, Ryan Panning and Willa Teel back to school at Hallinan Elementary

First grader Evie Panning had a hard time with distance learning. Her mom, Debi Panning, said that during distance learning Evie's emotions would range from minor frustration to crying. 

"Her love of learning really dwindled throughout the year," Panning said. 

But the first day of in-person school turned things around. 

"She literally got into the car and was so excited she was squealing," Panning said.

When the Lake Oswego School District announced plans to return students to in-person learning, it gave parents the option to decide what learning model was best for their family: hybrid or the fully-remote LO Online. 

The district received over 200 change requests, resulting in 1,924 students in hybrid learning and 664 in LO Online. 

The Lake Oswego Review spoke with parents who made the choice to send their kids back to in-person learning. 

Kiana Loesch started her kindergarten year at Lake Grove Elementary remotely. Her mom, Salumeh Loesch, was eager to get Kiana in the classroom. 

She said it was hard for Kiana to stay engaged in remote learning. 

"I don't fault the teachers for this … It's still just an impossible task," she said. 

She said Kiana's teacher, Christine Colacchio, did a great job trying to keep the students engaged online. COURTESY PHOTO: SALUMEH LOESCH - Kiana Loesch attends Lake Grove Elementary in-person for the first time.

"Ninety percent of kindergarten is socializing," Loesch said. 

Loesch has two sons, also in elementary school, but said she's keeping them home because it makes more sense for the family logistically. 

Loesch said Kiana enjoyed her first day ever attending Lake Grove in person.

"She, for the first time, is excited for school," Loesch said. 

She said she's hopeful hybrid learning will change her daughter's experience with school. 

Evie and Ryan Panning returned to in-person learning at Hallinan Elementary last week. 

Panning said the family's been excited for this day all school year. 

"Our girls and their mental health and emotional needs really drove (our decision)," Panning said. COURTESY PHOTO: DEBI PANNING - Evie Panning holds a sign marking her first day of in-person learning

Evie is now in first grade. Her kindergarten year was interrupted by the pandemic. 

"Her experience in school as a student is so different than anybody else in our family," Panning said. 

Panning said she's thankful Evie had such great teachers both years. 

"Even with that, the Zoom school doesn't hold a candle to being in person," Panning said. 

She said the best part of Evie's in-person experience was probably the socialization. 

"She was so happy to just be able to speak freely with the kids in her class," she said.

Panning said on Evie's first day back, both she and her husband went to drop her off, which they don't normally do. 

"The first day of school felt like the first day that they had ever gone to school, frankly," Panning said.

Panning said she cried more that day than she did on Evie's first day of kindergarten. 

"And honesty my husband was teary," she said. 

Her older daughter, Ryan, didn't have as hard a time with distance learning. 

Panning attributed that to the fact that Ryan was able to "pod up" with another girl in her third grade class.

Still, transitioning to hybrid made a big difference. 

"It's filling a cup I don't even think she realized needed to be filled," Panning said. 

Panning said the added safety measures like masks and the spacing of the desks hasn't phased her girls. 

"They acclimate so quickly to whatever the system is," she said.

If anything, Panning said, what the girls miss are the things that had to be left out of this stripped down version of school, like music class and recess. 

Panning said she's appreciative of Superintendent Lora de la Cruz and the school board for making this happen. 

"I really appreciate that the school feels safe; it's been a thoughtful process and a long one. I know how long they've been working towards the day we're in right now," she said. 

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