Last week, Washington’s superintendent of public instruction, Chris Reykdal, provided some more clarity to public schools about the possibility of reopening for in-class instruction by the fall.
The guidance was developed in partnership with the state Department of Health, the Governor’s Office, the Department of Labor Industries as well as a group of stakeholders comprised of more than 120 educators, practitioners, parents, community-based organizations, legislators and students.
”Nothing we have been through these past three months was in the training manual,” Reykdal said in a statement. “This guidance is grounded in my belief that the most equitable opportunity for educational success relies upon the comprehensive supports for students provided in our schools with our professionals and the systems of supports we have built.”
With face-to-face learning being the goal by fall, the plan includes three concepts for school districts to consider adapting should in-person learning not be available by the start of the school year, such as:
• Split or rotating schedules with distance learning;
• Phased-in opening with continuous learning; and
• Continuous learning 2.0, a more effective remote learning system
“Learning is a social activity, and we want to see our students back in the classroom,” Reykdal said. “Protecting the health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority. If schools can meet the guidelines laid out today by DOH, they will likely be able to open their doors in the fall for in-person instruction.”
How each school district reopens for in-person learning will be decided in partnership with its students, staff, families and their local health district. While reopening schools are not tied to Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Plan, districts in Phase 1 or Modified Phase 1 must receive approval to reopen from their local health authority.
“Today we are setting a path for moving forward with school activities in the summer and school reopening in the fall,” Inslee stated last week.“We have been working closely with Superintendent Reykdal and his staff at OSPI, state Department of Health, the Department of Labor and Industries, and a wide range of stakeholders across the state to ensure the health of all students and educators.”
“We all want students back in educational settings, but we must continue to monitor health data carefully, and proceed with caution,” Gov. Inslee continued. “This virus is unpredictable and has upended our regular ways of doing everything. Therefore, if COVID cases spike or spread, we may need to reassess this plan. We cannot guarantee that school facilities will open in fall. But for now, this guidance provides a path that schools, educators, and families need to plan for the coming months and the fall. Kids need to be learning but they also need to be safe and healthy.”
School districts that end up meeting in person during the fall will be required to follow DOH’s health and safety guidelines, such as social distancing, face coverings and personal protective equipment.
“Schools are foundational to student, family, and community health and well-being,” State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said. “DOH guidance provides health and safety measures to reduce the risk for spread of COVID-19 so that students have access to the critical physical, mental, and social health benefits school provides.”