Gov. Kate Brown visits a kindergarten class taught by Janeen Weigel on the first day back of in-person learning at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

“Who likes being back in school?” 

Gov. Kate Brown addressed a kindergarten class at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn Thursday morning.

About half the class raised their hands with mixed levels of enthusiasm. (One girl shouted at the governor that she’d recently gotten new earbuds.)

The students introduced Brown to their class mascot, Spot the dog, a stuffed animal who wore a blue surgical mask.

Teacher Janeen Weigel held spot and prompted the class: “He’s being....”

“Safe!” Brown and several students answered. One shouted, “Uncomfortable!”

Brown visited as part of the school’s first day back for in-person classes, offered to elementary students four days per week for two and a half hours a day.

The visit was part of the governor’s ongoing tour to tout the benefits of returning to in-person school, even as some of the state’s largest districts have yet to return. Brown said Thursday she was pleased by the progress so far to get kids back in school buildings, noting most districts have set dates to bring students back this spring.

She spoke with Juan Larios, the district's acting superintendent, Principal Sarah Flynn and Anthony Medina, school board chair in the school's library before visiting three classrooms.

At Lincoln and in the Woodburn district, about half of families elected to send their students back in-person, Larios told Brown. The remainder are continuing classes online. The district is also preparing for expanded summer school programs to help catch kids up who have fallen behind academically over the past year.

The Woodburn area has seen among the highest rates of Covid in Oregon. Larios said concerns about illness as well as families not wanting to switch school routines were the main factors for parents who opted to keep students home.

Teachers began the morning with a check-in, logging on to Zoom to speak simultaneously with the students in class and at home.

Viviana Vera began her dual-language first-grade class by asking the group why people wear masks during a pandemic. She explained protocols to the class, turning her computer around so the 16 students at home could see their eight classmates sitting at desks spaced apart. Then, Vera asked her students how they were feeling and why.

“I’m happy because I’m back at school,” one student responded in Spanish. Another echoed her reply.

Gov. Kate Brown speaks with Woodburn School District acting superintendent Juan Larios in the library on the first day back to in-person learning at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown stands in the library at Lincoln Elementary School during a visit on the first day back to in-person learning in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown talks with Erika Koffler, a health assistant at Lincoln Elementary School, in the school's screening room for medical issues in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown visits a first grade dual language class taught by Viviana Vera on the first day back to in-person learning at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown visits a kindergarten class taught by Janeen Weigel on the first day back of in-person learning at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown talks with first graders in teacher Christopher Ramos' dual language class at Lincoln Elementary School on the first day back to in-person learning in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown poses for a photo with teacher Janeen Weigel during a visit to Lincoln Elementary School on the first day back of in-person learning in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown visits Lincoln Elementary School on the first day back to in-person learning in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown talks with Erika Koffler, a health assistant at Lincoln Elementary School, in the school's screening room for medical issues in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown and kindergarten students give out socially-distanced air-hugs during Gov. Brown's visit to Lincoln Elementary School on the first day back to in-person learning in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown talks with first grade teacher Christopher Ramos in his first grade dual language class on the first day back of in-person learning at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/ Pool photo via Salem Reporter)

Gov. Kate Brown speaks with Lincoln Elementary School principal Sarah Flynn and Woodburn School District acting superintendent Juan Larios on the first day back to in-person learning at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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