State Superintendent expects schools in Washington to return to in person classes for fall of 2020
While releasing guidance for Washington schools, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said he expects them to reopen for in-person instruction in the fall.
“To be very clear, it is my expectation that schools will open this fall for in-person instruction," he wrote in a letter to school district leaders throughout the state.
On Thursday morning, the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released guidance for reopening schools after months of coronavirus closures. A panel of 123 people, including some from eastern Washington, worked to develop it.
In order to meet state Department of Health guidelines, some schools may reopen in the fall with a hybrid of face-to-face or online instruction, Reykdal said. All districts will also need an alternative plan to return to fully remote learning if local health authorities or Gov. Jay Inslee mandate future closures.
"Changing health conditions in a county or region may cause a local health authority or even the Governor to have to reconsider this opportunity to open, but the primary planning of most districts should be a presumption of a fall opening," Reykdal wrote.
Guidance from the OSPI says schools should not allow students, staff, vendors, parents guardians or guests on-site if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed or suspected case of the virus in the last 14 days.
Schools are also advised to check for signs of illness among all students and staff at entry every day. All students, staff, volunteers and guests are also required to wear cloth face coverings in K-12 settings.
Exceptions to the rule about cloth face coverings include:
Those with a disability that prevents them from comfortably wearing or removing a face covering
Those with certain respiratory conditions or trouble breathing
Those who are deaf or hard of hearing and use facial and mouth movements as part of communication
Those advised by a medical, legal, or behavioral health professional that wearing a face covering may pose a risk to that person
Students may also use face shields as an alternative to a cloth face covering, according to the guidance. Younger students must be supervised when wearing a face covering or shield and will need help putting them on an taking them off.
Schools are asked to maintain six feet of physical distancing within groups of students as much as possible. They should create space between students and reduce the amount of time they are close with each other. Schools may consider canceling field trips, assemblies and other large gatherings, canceling or modifying classes where students will be in close contact, suspending or significantly modifying activities that are considered high-risk, increasing the spaces between desks, staggering the release of classes and arrival/dismissal times, and limiting non-essential visitors.
Gatherings and potential mixing of classes or groups in the cafeteria or other communal spaces should also be limited. Under the guidance, schools should consider having students take their meals outside or in the class. If students are using the cafeteria, they should sit with their class or group. Mealtimes in lunchrooms or dining halls should also be staggered if possible.
Spokane Public Schools will hold a virtual media availability on Thursday afternoon regarding the state's guidelines for reopening and the district's plan. Leaders will also speak about the district's back-to-school task force.
- TEGNA SEA